The Howard University football team, unable to stop the run last year, still can't.
Led by Lorenzo Bouier, a 200-pound senior who scored four touchdowns and gained 209 yards rushing, Maine scored three touchdowns in the first 6:10 and routed the Bison, 38-15, at Alumni Stadium in today's season opener for both teams.
Maine totaled 468 yards, including 383 rushing from its wing-T formation. The Black Bears started using that formation last season, when they were 3-7-1 in Ron Rogerson's first year as coach.
"They had a lot of guys pursuing," Bouier said, "but once you get past the front line, it's all you."
"I'm glad they didn't run out of the I-formation," said Howard Coach Floyd Keith. "Bouier might have gotten 300 yards."
Despite starting nine games, Bouier gained only 432 rushing yards last season; his longest gain of the year was 16 yards. But today he twice had runs of 54 yards, the first giving Maine a 6-0 lead only 1:15 into the game. The quick touchdown was cited by Keith as a major factor leading to his team playing in a disorganized manner for most of the first half.
"They took the ball and scored in three plays," he said. "That certainly didn't help us."
Keith obviously wanted to maintain whatever confidence his players had remaining.
"We made some mistakes. Our containment was poor and in our defense, we can't let teams get outside," he said. "We did some decent things. We moved the ball pretty well in the second half (351 yards total offense for the game). We just had to gamble on some plays. We can't dwell on this one, we have 10 more (games) to go."
Tracy Singleton, Howard's senior split end, caught eight passes to give him 102 and put him within two of breaking the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference career record for receptions. He scored Howard's first touchdown (18 seconds before halftime) on a 27-yard pass from quarterback Sandy Nichols.
Nichols scored Howard's other touchdown on a one-yard run and completed 17 of 31 passes for 186 yards.
After Bouier's first touchdown, Maine scored on its next two possessions and led, 28-0. Quarterback Rich LaBonte, the Yankee Conference rookie of the year in 1981, hardly threw a pass until the game was decided; he finished six of 13 for 85 yards.
And why should he have thrown more passes? Maine's first two plays, both runs, gained 22 yards before Bouier got two good blocks to get around right end and start his 54-yard touchdown run. Jack Leone's conversion made it 7-0.
Howard couldn't move on its first possession and, when punter Duke Amayo couldn't handle a low snap and was knocked out of bounds at the Howard 28, Maine was set up for its second touchdown. Matt Bennett ran up the middle for 14 yards and Bouier, getting key blocks inside, scored on a five-yard run.
Howard's offense again fizzled and Maine had possession at its 26. On the first play from scrimmage, Bouier got through the left side of the Howard line and ran 54 yards before Robert Forte dragged the tailback down at the Howard 20.
"I had a stomach ache and as I was running, it tightened up on me," said Bouier, who missed the last two games of the '81 season with a hamstring injury.
When Bouier wasn't breaking for long gains, Bennett and Paul Phelan were getting through Howard's 4-3 defense for five- and six-yard gains. After Bouier's run, Phelan and Bennett gained some tough yards before LaBonte followed guards Barry Buckley and Louis Ortiz into the end zone on a quarterback keeper from six yards. The kick was good and Maine was up, 21-0, with 8:50 still to play in the first quarter.
"We were prepared but they hit us with something we didn't see," said Bison linebacker Matt Jordan. "They ran a lot of motion and we were slow to pick it up. Their sweep was very successful. That motion just threw us off."
Howard gave away the fourth Maine touchdown. After stopping a drive for the first time, the Bison forced Leone to try a 53-yard field goal. The kick was short, but Howard cornerback Charles Taylor tried to field the ball. He fumbled and Mark Coutts recovered at the Bison three.
Two plays later, Bouier ran over from a yard out for the touchdown. The kick made it 28-0 with 3:31 left in the half.
Next came Singleton's touchdown. Any hope that it would start a comeback ended in the opening 2 1/2 minutes of the second half. Maine recovered a fumble by Nichols at the Howard 29, Bouier swept right end for a five-yard touchdown and Maine led, 35-7.
Rogerson was delighted afterward. He had not envisioned this team as one with such big-play capability.
"We're not a big-play team," he said. "But I guess we have the potential to break some with the speed we have. Those two early touchdowns really surprised me."