Howard University ended a three-game Gator Bowl jinx by defeating Bethune-Cookman, 20-17, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game tonight before a crowd of 7,000.

The Bison, who had lost twice in this stadium to Florida A&M by scores of 42-25 and 62-3, played much better than in their first two games of the season, when they scored 10 and 0 points, respectively. It was their first victory under new Coach Joe Taylor and left them 1-0 in the conference.

Bethune is 1-1 and 0-1.

The Bison built a 13-3 halftime lead on a one-yard run by quarterback Kenneth Jones and field goals of 33 and 51 yards by Jon Nicholaisen. The Wildcats' three points came on Dennis Daniels' 35-yard field goal with 4:23 remaining in the half.

The host Wildcats battled back in the second half, scoring a pair of touchdowns to make it 17-13 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter. The scores came on a 19-yard pass from Bernard Hawk to Leon Gonzalez and a one-yard run by Alfred Young.

But Howard clinched its victory when Kevin Watkins caught a 69-yard touchdown pass from Jones with 3:30 remaining.

"The defender (Harvard Firscher) had me beat, but he turned his back," said Watkins, who regained his starting flanker position of a year ago during practice last week.

"Once he did that, all I needed to do was catch the ball and run. His turning made all the difference in the play."

Bethune had a chance to regain the lead late in the fourth. However, on second and goal from the Howard five, Hawk's pass was intercepted by linebacker Martin Brown at the two-yard line, ending the Wildcats' hopes for victory.