Howard University was penalized more yards than it gained either rushing or passing, missing a key extra-point attempt, fumbled on the Morgan State nine-yard line with six minutes remaining and completed fewer than a third of its passes.
But still it took a barely-missed 48-yard field-goal attempt by Bison kicker Howard Ward with 17 seconds remaining for Morgan State to escape with a 10-9 victory yesterday at Howard.
The loss, Howard's sixth in 10 games, finished Bison Coach Doug Porter's first losing season in five years at the school. The winning Bears finished 4-6-1 with their third straight victory over the Bison. Howard fell to 2-4 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference; the Bears upped their league mark to 23-1.
"I can't explain the penalties until I look at the films," said Porter "I just know we haven't had a series of penalties that damaging all season."
Porter was referring to Morgan's touchdown drive on the opening series of the game. The Bears moved 87 yards in 4 1/2 minutes, aided by four penalties against the Bison defense totaling 52 yards.
The defensive miscues, including two facemask calls, defensive, holding citation and an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty, produced three first downs to keep the drive going. When the Bears were not gaining yards via yellow flags, running back Lloyd McCleave was sweeping right for 28 of his 84 yards rushing.
After two straight penalties moved the ball from the Bison 29-yard line to the seven. Morgan ran three straight times with John Day's one-yard plunge and Ramon Wright's extra-point kick giving the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Bison quarterback Charles Seay, making the first start of his college career because of injuries to Howard's first two signal-callers, had little luck through the air. He completed only two of his first seven passes, one to a Bison and the other to a Bear. A potential first-down pass was dropped by wide receiver Reginald Sojourner on the Bear 48-yard line on Howard's second offensive series.
Early in the second quarter, the Bison put together their first serious drive. Beeman Veasley's 33-yard run on a draw play ended on Joseph Fowlkes' touchdown-saving tackle at the Bear 21. The Bison moved to the seven, were stalled on a third-and-seven play and watched Ward's 27-yard field goal attempt miss.
But the Bears were detected offside and Howard got one more chance from the Bear three-yard line. Porter disdained the field goal and the Bears held after a two-yard run by Seay.
The hosts got on the board following a march from their 36 in the second quarter. Veasley swept right for 19 of his 75 first-half yards during the drive, which ended with Wards 33-yard field goal with 5:25 left in the half.
The reborn Bison forced a fumble on Morgan's next play from scrimmage and lineback Thomas Clark's recovery gave them the ball on the Bear 22. Seay was sacked for a five-yard loss on first down but on second down he found tight end Fitz Fowler alone in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown. It way Seay's only completion of the first half.
Ward's conversion kick was wide left - his sixth miss in 22 attempts this season - and the Bison held a 9-7 lead 4 1/2 minutes before halftime.
After a clipping penalty nullified a 30-yard punt return by Howard's Steve Wilson in the third quarter, Morgan's defense held and the Bison punted from their end zone.
A short kick gave the Bear's the ball on Howard's 33. On the eighth play afterward, Wright booted a 35-yard field goal for what proved to be the winning points.
Catholic University jumped to a 207 halftime lead behind two touchdowns from Sam Lofaro and one by Jim Glynn and eased to a season-ending 33-19 victory yesterday over visiting Brooklyn College.
The Cardinals, in their second season in Division III, finished at 7-3 and earned Coach Joe Pascale his sixth consecutive winning season.