Howard Coach Floyd Keith could find only one good thing to say about Howard's 13-9 victory over Virginia State today at Rogers Stadium.
"Neither the offense nor the defense played well at all," said Keith. "I thought the officiating was poor. Seems like we had penalties on just about every drive. But hey, we won."
Howard won its second straight game to raise its record to 3-4, mostly due to a defense that stopped Virginia State on fourth down at midfield in the closing seconds of the game. Bison quarterback Sandy Nichols threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half, but had to wait until that last stand before being assured of the victory before a homecoming crowd of 16,000.
Nichols finished with 15 completions in 29 attempts tries for 220 yards and had two touchdown passes. Tracy Singleton caught eight passes for 102 yards.
Nichols' second scoring pass -- a 20-yarder to tight end Dwayne Jones -- made it 13-3 with 1:20 left in the second quarter. At that point VSU (1-5) had done just about everything wrong that is possible in one half of football.
But the Trojans started to do a few things right in the second half. Quarterback Alvin Hampton, who threw three interceptions in the second quarter, took his team 80 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter. Keith Price gained 46 of those yards on a nice run up the middle before scoring from one yard out to make it 13-9 with 12:01 remaining.
After a couple of changes of positions, the Trojans got the ball back at their 38 after Keith opted to go for a first down rather than punt on fourth and seven at the VSU 33 with 2:09 left.
"The wind was pretty strong so we decided to try for the first down," Keith said. "Even had we punted, the ball probably would have gone in the end zone. So we'd have gained 13 yards on the play because they would have taken over on the 20."
Nichols was sacked on the play and Virginia State started its drive. Hampton, who completed only four of 21 for 41 yards and threw four interceptions, missed on his first two passes and was faced with a fourth and three at his own 45. Hampton attempted an option play but bumped into the trailing Price and fumbled.
The Trojans got the ball right back after holding Howard. Jon Nicolaisen's punt traveled only 16 yards and fell at the Trojan 48 with 24 seconds left. Hampton was thrown for a five-yard loss on first down and then was intercepted by Robert Forte on the final play of the game.
"We didn't make any changes at all," said VSU Coach George Moody. "We planned to run on them and we did."
VSU (1-5) shut down the Bison running game completely, yielding only 91 yards on the ground. VSU runners, especially running backs Keith Price (90 yards on 13 carries) and Perry Riley (76 on 18) found lots of room inside. But when each time the Trojans got something going, a Howard defender would come up with a big play.
"We know we gave up too many yards," said Bison defensive tackle Ron Kinniard. "But we stopped them when we had to."