Southern University place-kicker Gibson Chigbu missed a 28-yard field goal try with 20 seconds to play tonight, allowing Howard University to escape Memorial Stadium with a 3-3 tie.
Howard Ward's 26-yard field goal with 4:52 remaining capped the Bison's only sustained drive and gained the standoff. Chigbu's 26-yard field goal with about five minutes remaining in the first half put the Jaguars on top and had the 24,600 home-coming partisans singing this season's most over-used song, "Another One Bites The Dust."
The only ones to bite the dust were the teams' offensive units. The defensive lines dominated, allowing no long pass completions and constantly harassing the quarterbacks.
The Bison offense, which had run up big scores in its four-game winning streak, gained only 117 yards and showed little of the "blue magic" with which it had dazzled teams the last month.
Quarterback Ronald Wilson completed only eight of 21 passes for 101 was sacked seven times tonight and at least six other times had to unload the ball because of a fierce rush. Tailback Greg Banes was the Bison's leading rusher with 24 yards; the team netted 16.
Worse for Howard (5-2-2), its Mid--Eastern Athletic Conferencee leading receiver, Tracey Singleton, missed the second half with an injured ankle. It plagued him all week in practice and was aggravated in the first half. The Bison probably would have lost if Jaguar tailback Wilfred Wilson (98 yards rushing tonight) hadn't dropped the ball, although he was untouched, after running 33 yards through a surprised Bison defense midway in the fourth quarter. He was headed for an apparent touchdown and a 10-0 lead. Howard defensive back Cedric Wilson recovered the fumble, and on that possession the Bison drove 60 yards to set up Ward's field goal.
"We definitely played well enough to win," Howard Coach Floyd Keith said while running toward a bus, where his team waited in uniform. Howard had to return to its motel to undress because the stadium doesn't have a locker room for visiting teams.
"Out defense certainly played well enough to win," Keith continued. "But the offense just couldn't get untracked. We had the chances, too. They (Southern) must have turned the ball over seven times (actually it was four). But I'll give them credit. Their defense was much better than I thought it would be. But we didn't operate. We just didn't control the ball game up front."
Southern (4-4-1) also had several chances to score, once electing to try for a touchdown on fourth down and goal from the three. But quarterback Norman Gibbs was smacked by Bison defensive back Doug Jones at the two and the drive ended.
Twice Bison freshman cornerback Chris Jackson intercepted Gibb's passes toward the end zone, intended for tight end Brian Williams. On another play, Myron Morrisson fumbled away a Ward punt, which would have given the Jaguars possession inside the Bison 40.
"We expect to win if we stay away from turnovers," Southern Coach Cass Jackson said all week.
Howard, too, might have won if the usually dependable Ward, who leads the conference in field goal percentage, had connected on a 33-yard field goal attempt at the outset of the fourth quarter. But he sliced it right. By that time, Ward probably had an aching right foot. Because of the offensive unit's ineffectiveness, he punted eight times for 297 yards.
Chigbu's game-winning attempt was hooked across his body wide to the left. "He's got a crazy soccer style; watch him hook it left," said one on-looker in the press box as the senior "switch-footed" kicker from Nigeria lined up for the attempt.
Ward's field goal followed a drive highlighted by a nine-yard pass from Wilson to Banes and a 33-yard gain resulting from a pass to Robert Artiss, combined with a face-mask penalty.
The Bison will have next week off before the season finale against Morgan State at Howard Stadium.