Last season's ugly memories haunted Howard's football team yesterday. Its offense once again was a no-show and Hampton Institute capitalized on mistakes to earn a 13-7 victory before 8,500 at Howard Stadium.
The teams have played 69 times, making their rivalry one of the oldest in the nation. Howard had beaten Hampton 10 straight times, the last a 38-21 victory in 1980. But the Bison, 0-2 under first-year Coach Willie Jeffries, were their own worst enemy yesterday, just as they were in last year's 1-9 season.
Howard's loss could be attributed to a variety of factors. Only once did the offense drive as far as 40 yards. It totaled 161 total yards and committed crucial turnovers and penalties. The defense allowed Hampton to convert third-down situations and could come up with no big plays.
"I guess you can say we took a step backward (from last week's 31-21 loss at Rhode Island)," Jeffries said. "We only scored seven points, and I feel really very low right now. Hampton stopped our running game real well, and we just didn't get that many snaps.
"We knew they would come in and push the ball up the field. They ran at us, then threw when they had to. We had three downs and punted; they were able to control the ball and keep it."
The Pirates lost to Tennessee State, 44-0, last week, so this outcome was surprising. Last week Hampton totaled 29 yards and was hopelessly outclassed. Not yesterday.
The Pirates tailback, Carl Painter, quick-stepped around and through a frustrated defense for 129 yards on 16 carries, including a 48-yard run that led to the winning touchdown.
With the score 7-7, Hampton opened the third period at its 13. Andre Bentley broke a trap play for 32 yards, then Painter ran 48 yards to the Bison 18.
Starting quarterback Marco Stacy, a freshman at Howard two years ago and fourth on the Hampton depth chart in the preseason, completed a 10-yard pass to Painter for first and goal at the three. The Bison stopped three running plays before Stacy scored on a one-yard sneak for the game-winning score. Howard's Martin Brown blocked the kick, but Hampton was up, 13-7, with 10:34 left in the period.
"We sort of came together after that loss to Tennessee State," Painter said. "We just used basic dives and blasts and worked the seams on the passing plays. It all worked."
The Bison had a chance to go ahead in the last period. Brian Sloan, who was listed as questionable because of sore ribs, replaced freshman quarterback Leon Brown (four of 13 for 25 yards) and led Howard's only second-half drive.
Sticking with options and short passes, Sloan moved Howard to fourth and two at the Hampton 18. The Bison tried the same run and pitch play that gained eight yards on the previous down. But this time, tailback Andrew Kelly was stopped.
"We thought that play would work again," Jeffries said, "but we didn't get the block on the cornerback and they stopped us. That was a key play."
Howard got the ball back with less than two minutes to play but Hampton's defense allowed only three short completions before time ran out with Howard at midfield.
One of the most jubilant men on the field was the Pirates' coach, Fred Freeman, an assistant coach at Howard for six years and at Hampton for five years before moving up this season.
"Last week our defense was destroyed," he said. "We executed very well. We thought we could run against Howard and we mixed up our plays."
On Howard's first play from scrimmage, Harvey Reed fumbled and the Pirates' Reggie Jackson recovered at the hosts' 39. Three plays later, Stacy threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Troy Tolson. The point after made it 7-0.
The Bison, aided by a penalty, moved 66 yards in 10 plays to tie. Richard Vickers dived over from the two, and Jon Nicolaisen's kick made it 7-7 with 8:29 to play in the first period.
Although Hampton scored only once more, it controlled the ball. Stacy (eight of 16 for 154 yards) six times converted on third and long. A roughing the kicker and offside penalty also enabled the Pirates to use up time.
Things don't get any better for Howard, which will play powerful Bethune-Cookman next Saturday.