Wide receiver Tracy Singleton, reacting to a hand signal at the line of scrimmage, leaped between two Norfolk State defenders and caught a four-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining to earn Howard a dramatic 24-18 come-from-behind victory today at Foreman Field.
The largest crowd ever to watch a Norfolk State game -- 26,000 -- sat stunned as Bison quarterback Sandy Nichols directed a methodical 95-yard scoring drive in the final three minutes to wipe out an 18-16 Spartan advantage provided by Dale Browder's 37-yard field goal with 3:05 left.
Singleton, who caught four passes on the drive and seven for the day, set a Division I-AA record for receptions. Singleton needed three to break Portland State's Joel Sigler's record of 140 career catches.
"He (Singleton) doesn't care much about the record," said Nichols, who completed 16 of 25 passes for 245 yards and rushed for another 46. "Tracy just wants the points."
A six-yard scramble by Nichols on the 14th play of the drive gave Howard first and goal at the four. Nichols then made up a play that wasn't in any playbook to pull out Howard's fourth straight victory in a 5-4 season.
"I called a sneak but I saw Tracy's man come and turn his back," Nichols explained. "Tracy looked at me and I gave him a little twirl of my finger. He understood exactly what I meant."
Nichols took one step toward the line then stepped back and arched a high, soft pass that only a player with Singleton's jumping ability could have caught. Sandwiched between two Norfolk State players, Singleton outjumped both for the ball and winning score.
Nichols completed five of seven passes for 47 yards in the drive and gained first downs running on third and eight and third and two.
Duke Amayo's conversion kick made it 24-18 and Norfolk State (6-2) was down to a kickoff and perhaps one play.
On a first-down play from the Spartan 34, quarterback Reynard Revels' long desperation pass was intercepted by safety Robert Forte at the Howard 30 as the gun sounded.
"We let the game get away from us," Spartan Coach Dick Price said. "We had good converage but Singleton just beat us."
The drive began badly as kick returner Perky Warner couldn't make up his mind what to do with the kickoff after Brower's go-ahead field goal.
Warner, whose 50-yard touchdown catch with 1:05 left in the third period helped the Bison gain a 16-15 advantage, finally started upfield before being smothered at his five.
"(Richard) Vickers told me to stay in the end zone but I took too many steps and couldn't go back," Warner said. "I had to come out then."
Warner's indecisiveness was soon forgotten, however, as Nichols took his team the rest of the way.
Howard gained an early advantage on a 36-yard field goal by Amayo with three minutes gone in the first quarter. But Norfolk State went ahead, 8-3, at halftime on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Raynard Revels to Orlando Goodhope and a conversion run by Pat Creecy.
Howard made several adjustments in the second half, stopping everyone except Revels, who often broke free for long runs and gained 81 yards rushing.
After Vickers scored on a three-yard run to put Howard ahead, 9-8, with 6:28 left in the third period, Revels passed for one first down and ran for two more in taking his team 81 yards for a touchdown. George Parker's 25-yard scoring run and Browder's kick made it 15-9 with 1:45 in the third period.
"We did a pretty good job of stopping everyone, but Revels got away too many times," Howard Coach Floyd Keith said. "We had him contained and just about sacked but he would always sprint away."