Howard University will try to accomplish two things, in addition to winning, in Saturday's homecoming game against Delaware State (1-4) at RFK Stadium at 1:30 p.m.
The first will be to eliminate the mistakes that cost the Bison (1-2-1) an upset of undefeated South Carolina State two weeks ago and a 42-25 humiliation by Florida A&M last week. The second will be to play four quarters of football, eliminating the necessity for the furious second-half rallies the offense has had to produce.
"If we can do those two things," said Howard Coach Floyd Keith, "the final score will take care of itself. We've got to make teams earn their yardage and points and stop helping opponents win like we did the last two weeks."
Keith said he has preached to his players all week the importance of cutting down their mistakes if they expect to break a two-game losing streak (both conference games)."The worst thing we can do is come into this game thinking Delaware State is a 1-4 team," Keith warned.
After playing two solid games in defeating West Virginia State and tying Bethune Cookman, the Bison in the last two weeks have developed a penchant for fumbles, holding penalties and allowing opponents to break off long runs and punt returns. They fall behind early. Then it takes all the team can muster just to catch up.
"In every game you'll make mistakes, that's what makes football so interesting," Keith said. "But it's when and where you make them that hurts."
So, besides drilling his players in fundamentals all week -- runners holding onto the ball, defenders being sure of their assignments, linemen holding their blocks and special teams not allowing any more 62- or 66-yard punt returns -- Keith held a team meeting. He broke down all the Florida A&M scoring to show his players how they were beating themselves.
Of the six Rattler touchdowns, Keith pointed out, FAMU "earned" only one: the 69-yard first-quarter run by tailback Archie Jones. But even that came after Ivan Thompson's fumble gave FAMU the ball when the Bison were driving.
The second score came off an interception after quarterback Ron Wilson was hit from the blind side, the ball popping into the hands of a Rattler lineman. "That, we can prevent," Keith said.
On the third Rattler scoring drive, of 60 yards, Howard was assessed 30 yards in penalties. The same was true of the fourth drive, of 71 yards. The Rattlers picked up 37 on a pass interference penalty.
A 62-yard kick return set up the fifth, then a punt that lost three yards by usually dependable Howard Ward gave FAMU the ball deep in Bison territory.
"We just can't make those types of mistakes and expect to beat good football teams," Keith said. "We helped them score five of their six touchdowns. We didn't hold our poise. The special teams didn't play well at all and the defense missed too many assignments. But we've worked hard all week and the kids will come out with their heads up on Saturday."
"No one has mentioned that Saturday game since Monday," Ward said. "We've remained pretty relaxed -- not to relaxed or overconfident, but determined to put together a complete football game for homecoming."
The Bison will face a Hornet team that lost, 21-20, to Mid-Eastern Atheltic Conference leader South Carolina State but was beaten easily by Bethune-Cookman last Saturday. The Hornets rely on the passing of quarterback Samuel Warren, who has completed 23 of 43 for seven touchdowns, five by flanker Greg Lee. However, Delaware has not rushed for a touchdown this season.
Coach Charles Henderson may order more running because the Bison have the conference's worst rushing defense, allowing 225 yards per game. The Hornets have permitted 180 yards on the ground, ranking above only the Bison. h