Howard University made up for decades of frustration yesterday, crushing Morgan State, its helpless arch rival, 51-6.
More than 8,000 people in Howard Stadium witnessed the assault, as the Bison battered the injury-decimated Bears with three touchdowns in the first quarter and four more in the fourth quarter, and also scored a safety in the third.
Nor since 1922, when Howard whipped Morgan, 52-6, has a Bison team won a game by such a large margin in this 81-year rivalry. Morgan came in with a 31-12-3 series lead, but knew its crippled team needed a miracle to win. Including yesterday's victory, Howard has beaten Morgan only five times in the last 53 years.
Morgan was never even competitive yesterday, dropping to 4-7 in its last game under third-year Coach Clarence Thomas, who resigned Friday, but did not announce his decision until after yesterday's game.
Howard recorded 20 first downs to Morgan's five, and 496 yards to the Bears' 223. It was Howard's first victory over its Baltimore rival since 1975, and gave the Bison their best record (6-2-2) sinced that season.
They will find out sometime this week whether this impressive regular-season finale earned them a bid to the Gold Bowl Dec. 6 in Richmond against North Carolina Central.
Sophomore split end Tracy Singleton stole the spotlight from 13 seniors playing their last home game by catching eight passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. He earned the school record for pass receptions in a season with 49, for 1,013 yards.
Singleton's 15-yard touchdown catch with 1:31 left in the game was one of three late Howard scores that infuriated Thomas.
"What goes around comes around," said Thomas, who earlier in the week said he hoped Howard Coard Floyd Deith woundn't "run up the score" on his team.
"Sometimes, the amount of class and character of a football team shows on the field," Thomas continued, "and if that's all the class and character Howard can muster, then they're in trouble.
"Somewhere there will be another time, another place and another team, and he'll (Keith) be on the short end. When I shook his hand after the game I told him what I thought of his team's performance. But what I said is unprintable in a family newspaper."
Said Keith: "Is it running up the score when we called just about all running plays in the fourth quarter? We didn't even throw passes until one of the reporters yelled down to the sideline that Tracy needed only 30 yards for 1,000 and three catches for 50 for the season. It would be an injustice to the kid to come this far and not have a chance to go for the record."
Of Howard's 19 plays with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, four were pass attempts and three of those were to Singleton. But the lopsided outcome probably only will fuel this rivalry even more. "I don't know how much more this rivalry can stand," Keith said.
Howard took a 7-0 lead on a two-yard touchdown run by tailback Greg Banes and the first of Howard Ward's seven straight coversion kicks, giving him 32 in a row.
Less than two minutes later Howard defensive lineman Jeff Wise sacked Morgan quarterback Daryl Johnson -- one of three quarterbacks Thomas used in the first quarter -- and the ball squirted into the end zone where Bison Mike Walls flopped on it for a 14-0 lead.
The score went to 21-0 on Banes' 30-yard run over left tackle after quarterback Ronald Wilson (11 for 21 passing, 210 yards) ran 17 yards on first down.
The score became 23-0 in the third when senior ends Ken Pimpton and Larry Hamilton sacked James Fields for a safety.
Morgan socred its only touchdown on Wallace Dent's three-yard run to begin the fourth quarter, foiling the Bison bid for their first shutout over Morgan since 1925.
With 10:14 left, Bison fullback Cornelius Quarles ran two yards for a 30-6 lead after Wilson had thrown for 46 yards to Singleton. Quarles plunged one yard for his second touchdown with 3:16 left. After the Bears went nowhere in four downs, Wilson found Singleton open in the end zone on first down for a 44-6 margin with 1:31 remaining.
And finally, after a Bison interception, J.t. lAtimer ran two yards with 17 seconds left ot complete the scoring.
"I have to give credit to John Billberry, Kerry Kee, Keith Hill, and Ralph Grimes for all those yards rushing," Quarles said of his offensive linemen, "because the holes were there all day long." The line enabled Quarles to gain 53 yards rushing and Banes to carry for 155.
"I'm glad we crushed them," said cornerback Jimmy Diggs, who had an interception. "After all they are Morgan."
"We (the seniors) couldn't have gone out any better than this," said Wilson, the key to Howard's success this season and a good bet to win Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference player of the year honors. "You always remember that last game you played at your home stadium, no matter how long you live. And this one, over Morgan, is one that I'll savor. Starting right now."