Already eliminated from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football race, Howard's players say they are playing the remainder of the season for pride and to regain respect.
Howard (1-4) was embarrassed the last two weeks, by South Carolina State, 50-0, and by Florida A&M, 62-3. Howard is 0-3 in the conference with two games remaining and it's mathematically impossible for the Bison to win the title.
"We're out of it (the MEAC race) so we have nothing to lose now," said Melvin Sutton, Howard's leading rusher and a doubtful starter Saturday because of a separated shoulder. "I know we're a lot better than we've shown but some of the guys aren't playing at 100 percent and it's getting frustrating. Against FAMU, I was watching the clock and I couldn't wait to get out of there. But Saturday's game (vs. Delaware State at Howard Stadium) is very important for all of us. We have to put our hats on and go for it."
The players, some upset over the football program's lack of direction, didn't practice Monday. Instead they held a team meeting to air grievances with Coach Floyd Keith.
Keith, who didn't allow his assistant coaches in the meeting, said they "discussed many different things and what was discussed was between my players and me."
Keith also said the administration has not put any pressure on him. "I haven't had time to think about that; I have a team to coach," Keith said. "Whatever problems are here are in-house problems and we're trying to correct them."
The players wouldn't say what was discussed.
"It's obvious something has been missing," John Bilberry, all-MEAC senior guard, said. "This is the best talented team I've been on but we just haven't put it together. There's no dissension among the players but our attitudes haven't been right. We just have to remotivate ourselves and try to be respectable the rest of season."
"We just aren't as bad as those scores," linebacker Robert Sellers, Howard's top defensive player, said. "We still have faith; well, I still have faith in our system. We're inches away, it seems, when something happens. We have a team in a third and long or even fourth and long and we give up a big play. I have to ask myself, are we that bad?"
Keith has never lost to Delaware State and Howard has won the last four times the teams have played. But Delaware State's second-year coach, Joe Purzycki, has turned the Hornets (1-2 in the MEAC, 1-3 overall) into the most improved team in the conference. DSU's victory this year was over South Carolina State, 17-7.