A frustrated Hampton Institute assistant coach said it best. "It's obvious," he grumbled, "that all anybody has to do is throw the ball at us and it's a touchdown."
Howard quarterback Ronald Wilson didn't hit for a score every time he threw, but he was close enough. The senior completed 10 passes in 14 attempts for 247 yards and three touchdowns today as Howard survived a post-Halloween scare to beat Hampton, 38-21, before 5,259.
The victory was Howard's fourth straight, and pushed its record to 5-2-1, guaranteeing the school its first winning season since 1975. NCAA Division 2 Hampton, playing the only Division I-AA team on its schedule, fell to 4-4.
The Pirates won't be playing Howard anymore. This was the final game of a series that started in 1928 and was continued every year except 1943. Hampton's conference, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association, has ruled that member schools must play 10 games, instead of the current 11. The contract with Howard was not renewed.
The underdog Pirates grabbed a 21-17 lead with 1:23 left in the third quarter when Mike Corprew busted in from the five. Howard should have been concerned. Not only were the Bison trailing, but Corprew had exceeded 90 yards for the afternoon.Entering the game, he had gained all of 10 yards for the season.
"I wasn't worried," Howard Coach Floyd Keith said."We didn't lose, did we?"
No, indeed. Wilson and his favorite playmate, Tracy Singleton, made sure of that. Getting the ball on his 28, Wilson orchestrated a 12-play, 72-yard drive and carried it himself for the final two yards for Howard's go-ahead touchdown with 10:17 left to play. Howard led, 24-21.
The defense woke up to stop Hampton on fourth and one at the Pirate 44 and, after two running plays, Wilson went to Singleton on third down.
The sophomore receiver already had scored a touchdown, a 57-yard reception that first bounced off the hands of Hampton defenders Robert Brown and Ricky Coggins on the game's third play. Now Singleton was running a short pattern for the first down.
He got that and more. Much more. Singleton caught the pass near the left sideline, put a fake on Brown and cut to the middle of the field. Picking up a couple of blocks, Singleton scored on a 43-yard touchdown play. After Howard Ward's kick, the Bison led, 31-21, with 5:48 to go.
That was also all for Hampton. To make sure, Wilson connected with Robert Artisst on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 4:08 remaining after Dennis Mahan fumbled on his 35.
Mahan shouldn't be remembered for that play, however. The sophomore transfer from the University of Tennessee shredded the Bison defense for 138 yards on 20 carries. In all, the Pirates, who had been averaging 142 yards on the ground, rolled up 282 rushing yards.
"They have a good offense and we have a lot of people banged up on defense," said Keith, who noted that three defensive starters were injured. "We have a lot of second- and third-teamers in there."
Singleton, who broke Eddie Richardson's 1973 school record of 730 yards on receptions, said he expected a high-scoring game.
"We knew they have a good offense," he said. "We didn't handle them too good at first, but we came out in the second half and played solid."
Hampton didn't fold after Singleton's volleyball touchdown catch early in the game. The Pirates, paced by Mahan's runs of 28 and 26 yards, cruised 83 yards in seven plays to tie the score, 7-7.
Howard drove almost the length of the field to consume more than eight minutes of the first quarter. Greg Banes four-yard run, the 14th play of a 93-yard drive, put Howard up, 14-7.
But Hampton answered the Bison's march with one of its own. The Pirates took 14 plays to go 80 yards and tied the game again on a six-yard pass from Herb Tollerson to a wide-open Anthony Smith.
Someone mentioned to Keith the recent allegations concerning the mistreatment of Howard football players.
"I know what we do is right and the kids have a great attitude," Keith said. "If we had so many problems we wouldn't have a winning season."