Despite averaging 388 yards per game and ranking second in four offensive categories in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Howard's offense is having problems.
In their first three games -- one victory, two defeats -- the Bison outgained their opponents by 180 yards, had nine more first downs and 33 more offensive plays. But Howard has been outscored, 50-20, in the first halfs.
"Our problem is we haven't got four good quarters in a game yet," said Coach Floyd Keith, whose halftime telephone and tie-throwing outburst Saturday during the loss to Bethune Cookman was an attempt to motivate his players.
"On the films, we saw a lot of good things. I wasn't down on the defense, I was a little upset over the entire team's play in the first half. We lost our quarterback early and I thought Brian (Sloan) came in and did a great job. We moved the ball fine the second half. We're doing things pretty well to get down there, we just have to make that scoreboard flash."
At South Carolina State Saturday, Howard can't afford to blow scoring chances as it did last week. A loss to the defending conference champions (1-1, 1-2) would severely hurt the Bison's chances for a conference title.
SCS has won the last eight meetings between the teams, including a 55-17 win two years ago, and a 34-6 triumph in 1981. In the last three years, Howard averaged less than three yards per carry and was only moderately successful passing. Last year Howard rushed 37 times against the MEAC's best team against the rush. Howard managed 87 yards, much of that when the game was out of reach.
This season SCS is second to Florida A&M in total defense, allowing an average of 170 yards per game. However, SCS is first in rushing defense, giving up only 50 yards per game. Despite State's statistics, Keith feels Howard can run the ball.
"I don't want to go into the game thinking we have to pass more than run," he said. "I'm interested in balance."
Thus far, Howard's balance has consisted of tailback Melvin Sutton, who has rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns, and split end Tracy Singleton, second among Division I-AA receivers in catches (20) and first in yardage (311). No other Bison running back has rushed for more than 75 yards and no other receiver has caught more than five passes.
Quarterback Sandy Nichols, who had 30 completions in 52 attempts for 402 yards, will miss at least two games with a badly bruised shoulder he suffered in the first period of the Bethune-Cookman game. Linebacker Martin Brown will also sit out the SCS game with a strained right knee. Sutton has a slight hip pointer but is expected to play.