Jeff Wise and Ron Kinnaird led a strong pass rush that sacked North Carolina A&T quarterbacks eight times as Howard dealt the Aggies their eighth straight loss, 20-13, before a homecoming crowd of approximately 11,000 at RFK Stadium.
"This was our best defensive game of the year," said Howard Coach Floyd Keith. "Our offense was very inconsistent and we had to depend on our defense almost totally. We made some mistakes and had some penalties at the wrong time to give A&T some scoring chances. But our defense did a great job."
In winning their third game in a row, the Bison finished 2-3 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and evened their season record at 4-4. A&T dropped to 0-4 in conference play and 0-6 overall.
"We know what happened in the South Carolina State and Florida A&M games (when Howard gave up 984 total yards and lost by a combined score of 112-3) and we were convinced to show these people we still can play defense," said Wise, who helped hold Aggie runners to 64 net yards and was in on four sacks from his defensive end position.
Duke Amayo's second field goal, a 27-yarder, gave the Bison a 20-13 lead with 4:18 remaining in the third period. And that seven-point lead was in jeopardy right up to the final play.
A&T took advantage of Howard mistakes and reached the Bison 15, 44 and 43 yard lines in the final period. But each time, Wise, Kinnaird, Greg Watson and their defensive teammates came up with a big play, usually a sack.
A&T's best chance came after Ken Walton recovered after Paul McGlone fumbled a punt at the Bison 35. A 20-yard run by Steve McCormick moved the ball to the Howard 15.
Quarterback Keith James, who replaced Alvin Grier in the first period, then was thrown for a 16-yard loss by three Howard rushers to end that series. James completed only six of 24 passes for 56 yards. He was sacked seven times, four times in the last period.
A&T managed another promising fourth-quarter drive but Watson sacked James for a nine-yard loss on a first down pass play from the Bison 44 to end that series.
"Each time we got something going, our offensive line broke down," said A&T's first-year coach, Mo Forte. "We blocked very poor on the run so you know we had trouble blocking on the pass. That 84 (Wise) killed us, just killed us."
Howard gave the Aggies one last chance when Sandy Nichols' long pass for Tracy Singleton was intercepted by Tim Williams at the A&T 11 with four seconds left. James was run out of the pocket and went 41 yards before being tackled at the Howard 43 as the gun sounded.
When asked why he opted to pass rather than just run out the clock, Nichols said he thought the clock would run out and "I just threw it deep."
The game started inauspiciously for Howard, with A&T taking the lead on a 28-yard field goal by Aaron Herring with less than five minutes elapsed in the first period. Amayo tied the game on a 25-yard kick with 33 seconds left in the period.
A&T was guilty of some poor tackling when Andrew Kelly shook off a half dozen feeble hits and ran 47 yards on a straight running play up the middle for a touchdown. Amayo's kick gave Howard a 10-3 lead early in the second period.
The Bison running game slowed considerably after Melvin Sutton left with an ankle injury late in the first period, so Howard went to the air.
Singleton, who needed 10 receptions to become the top receiver in Division I-AA history, caught seven passes for 141 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown pass that put Howard ahead, 17-3, with 1:46 left in the half.
The Aggies' final points came on another field goal by Herring and a two-yard run by Mike Jones with 13:02 to play. Jones' score was set up when Andrew Kelly fumbled at the Howard 15.