Penalties, interceptions and broken plays stalled Howard's only offensive drives and forced the defense to remain on the field for almost 40 minutes as the Bison lost to Bucknell, 12-0, today before 3,000 at Memorial Stadium.
Three Howard drives were stopped inside Bucknell's 20-yard line and the Bison crossed midfield only six times in the game. Howard (0-2) didn't make a first down in the first half and had three turnovers in the game, leaving first-year Coach Joe Taylor shaking his head.
"We just executed very poorly. We lacked consistency," said Taylor. "But whether we drop the ball or throw an interception, we're still a couple of plays short of being good.
"I think just one touchdown would have sprung us open--we were that close," Taylor said. "But Bucknell is a very fine team. When you compete against experience like that with puppies, what do you expect?"
Howard's offensive breakdown stemmed from a lack of leadership at quarterback. Freshman Kenny Jones started the game, but completed only one of eight passes and threw a costly interception with 7:22 remaining, killing the Bison's last legitimate drive.
Jones was replaced by two-year starter Sandy Nichols, a senior, on two first-half drives and played only two downs in the second half. Nichols completed eight of 17 passes and led his team to its eight first downs. But a third-quarter interception and a sloppy pitchout to running back Andrew Kelly on third and one from the Bucknell one cost the Bison scoring opportunities.
"Execution," Nichols said, dejectedly. "We didn't execute at all."
"Both of them did some things well and some things bad," said Taylor. "But we need leadership and consistency there. We'll look at the films this week and definitely pick someone to be our starter."
Despite facing an offense which included nine returning starters, Howard's defense played well. The Bison sacked Bucknell quarterback Bob Gibbon five times and forced two fumbles, recovering one. The defensive line, led by senior tackle Ron Kinnaird (nine tackles), shut off Bucknell's short-yardage game and repeatedly forced running backs Jaques Peay and Joe Baker outside.
"If Howard can get some offense to go with that defense, they'll be a terror," said Bucknell Coach Bob Curtis. "But they don't disguise what they want to do. If they were going to pass, we knew it, and if they were going to run, we also knew it. We felt very comfortable."
Bucknell (1-0) scored both of its touchdowns in the first half for its first home victory since 1981.
Bucknell took a 6-0 lead as junior Gibbon, starting his first collegiate game at quarterback, led the team 64 yards on 13 plays after the opening kickoff. Gibbon completed the drive by hitting wide receiver Dave Kucera cutting across the end zone. Al Yunkus' conversion kick was wide left.
Bucknell scored again with 23 seconds left in the half as Baker ran one yard off tackle. Baker, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, carried four times for 26 yards in the 60-yard drive, and led all rushers with 74 yards in the game.
Bucknell tried several times to increase its lead with field goals. But Yunkus, who holds all Bucknell season and career kicking records, missed four field goal attempts.