Howard senior Tracy Singleton had one thought on his mind yesterday: going out in style.
He did, catching three touchdown passes to help Howard rout rival Morgan State, 42-19, in the season finale for both teams at Howard Stadium.
Singleton, who earlier this season became the top receiver in Division I-AA history, caught 10 passes yesterday for 182 yards, 78 more than he needed to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in receiving for the third straight season. It was his best collegiate game.
Singleton, an all-Met while at McKinley High School, finished with 65 catches for 1,078 yards this year and scored eight touchdowns. Despite catching only one pass as a freshman, Singleton, a wide receiver, finished with 159 catches for 3,187 total reception yards and scored 16 touchdowns.
"I couldn't give my team a title but I gave them the next best thing -- all of me," said Singleton, dripping from a champagne shower. "It was my last college game and I wanted it to be special. Both our offense and defense played well and I was able to have my best game ever."
Bison quarterback Sandy Nichols also had a good day, breaking the school pass yardage mark for the second straight week. Nichols, a junior, completed 21 of 29 passes for 304 yards and scored on four- and one-yard runs. His performance helped Howard amass a season-high 511 total yards, only four less than the school record.
Nichols' first score ended a 63-yard drive and wiped out a 13-7 Bear lead with 9:28 to play in the second period. Duke Amayo, who made six conversion kicks but missed an 18-yard field goal try with five seconds left before halftime, gave his team a 14-13 lead.
The Nichols-Singleton show gave Howard (6-5) breathing room midway in the third quarter. Singleton, doing a balancing act on the sideline, caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Nichols before falling out of bounds. The Bison lead stretched to 21-13 with 7:37 left in the period.
After a trade of interceptions, Howard moved to 28-13 early in the fourth period on Nichols' 14-yard pass to tight end Dwayne Jones.
But the Bison's Baltimore rivals, who held a 31-13-3 advantage in this 83-year-old series, weren't about to head for home yet.
Al Johnson, the third quarterback used by interim Coach Nat Frazier, guided his team on a 28-yard scoring drive after recovery of a fumble by Howard's Andrew Kelly to cut the deficit to 28-19 with 6:49 left in the game. The Bears (4-7) went for the two-point coversion but Johnson's pass was incomplete.
Howard was in control thereafter.
Nichols, sacked 11 times in last week's 22-17 loss to Western Illinois, had lots of time to throw yesterday. After taking possession at the Bear 44 following a fourth-down sack by Greg Watson and Charles Scott, Nichols scored on a one-inch sneak for a 35-19 lead with 2:56 left. Kelly went 43 yards on a trap play to set it up.
"I wanted to do my part for the seniors," said Nichols, who will be the MEAC's leading passer and offensive leader for the second straight year. "Before the game, a few of the guys shed some tears and I felt something, too. I knew exactly how many yards Tracy needed to reach 1,000. And he knew I was going to throw to him until he got it."
With less than three minutes to play and needing eight yards to reach that 1,000-yard goal, Nichols threw two short-out patterns to Singleton totaling 15 yards. Singleton added a bit of spice to the afternoon, running under a well-thrown 45-yard pass with 44 seconds to play.
"We couldn't cover him," said Bear defensive end Karl Williams.
Few ever could.