Mike Fogle's 30-yard field goal with 3:44 left in the third quarter carried Western Illinois to a 20-17 victory over Howard today, ending the Bison's four-game winning streak.
But the big play was freshman Kevin Perkins' 92-yard touchdown return earlier in the quarter. It came just 10 seconds after Howard had taken the second-half kickoff and driven for a touchdown to take its only lead of the game.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Perkins, returning the first kickoff of his college career, was substituting for regular kickoff returner Mike Hembrough, who had sprained an ankle.
"There's no question about it," Western Illinois Coach Pete Rodriguez said, "it was a big change of momentum."
Howard Coach Floyd Keith agreed: "The key had to be the 92-yard return. We hadn't planned on kicking that deep, but we made a mistake (by kicking that deep) and paid for it.
"I have to hand it to them. They had the chance and they executed . . . They have taken three kickoffs in for touchdowns in the last two games. We played hard and scored enough points to win. It's a shame that the game depended on a key play like that."
The victory ended a four-game losing streak for the Leathernecks, who finished 5-6. It was their best season since 1976 when they went 7-3. Howard, losing its first nonconference game in two seasons, will take a 5-4 record into its closing game against Morgan State.
Howard lost three turnovers and Sandy Nichols was sacked five times, twice in critical situations. The first stopped a potential touchdown drive and forced a short field goal in the final seconds of the first half. The second aborted Howard's only offensive surge past midfield after Fogle's go-ahead field goal.
Western Illinois started strongly, moving 78 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown after the opening kickoff. The score came on Brad Blakey's three-yard pass to Frank Angelucci.
Howard turned the ball over at 8:30 of the first period after an unsuccessful drive. The Leathernecks moved to the Bison 12, setting up Fogle's 29-yard field goal and increasing their lead to 10-0 with four minutes left in the quarter.
Nichols' 33-yard pass to Tracy Singleton put the ball on the Western Illinois 19. Nichols ran a 17-yard keeper for first and goal on the two, then handed off to Jeff Owens for the score. Duke Amayo's conversion and 21-yard field goal tied it, 10-10.
At the outset of the second half, Howard moved 69 yards in six plays with Nichols scoring from the four. Amayo's conversion kick gave the Bison their only lead of the game, 17-10, at 11:47 in the third period.