Norfolk State, statistically the toughest NCAA Division II team against the run, held Howard to minus seven yards rushing in the second-half today and took advantage of Bison errors for a 42-10 victory before a record homecoming crowd of 27,500 at sold-out Foreman Field.
The Spartans, ranked No. 5 in Division II in Willard Bailey's first year as their coach, improved to 8-0. Howard, which became the second team to lead Norfolk State this year, lost for the 13th time in 14 games. The Bison are 1-6.
Anthony Johnson, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound Spartan senior, rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Johnson, who had only 487 career yards in three years of Norfolk's pro-set offense, has 957 this season in Bailey's wing-T and has been short of 100 yards in just one game.
Norfolk State came into the game allowing only 17.9 yards per game rushing and 140.9 total yards a game. On the first play from scrimmage, Quinton Ward sacked Howard quarterback Leon Brown in the end zone for a safety.
Jon Nicolaisen's 37-yard field goal gave Howard a 3-2 lead. A 47-yard pass from Brown to Kevin Watkins led to Ronnie Epps' six-yard touchdown on the second play of the second quarter and a 10-5 Bison lead.
But Howard gained only two more first downs the remainder of the game.
The Bison mishandled three kickoffs that resulted in poor field position, failed to get off two punts because of poor snaps and had a field goal blocked. They also had 16 plays that resulted in losses or no gains.
"We played a first half and didn't play a second half," said Howard Coach Willie Jeffries. "They were running the same plays in the second half that they ran in the first half, but they were blowing us off the ball. We are still making too many mistakes, and today, we got outhustled."
The Spartans have outscored opponents, 105-19, in the second half. They led, 19-10, at the half today, but the game's key play occurred with 1:49 left in the second quarter.
On a third and 12 at the Howard 32, Spartan quarterback Raynard Revels lofted a pass into the end zone for Tim Williams. Williams pushed off Howard safety Earl Kinney at the goal line and caught the ball six yards into the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown. No penalty was called.
Williams denied he was guilty of offensive pass interference.
"I just wanted the ball more than he did," said Williams, a sophomore tight end who was converted from quarterback earlier this year. "His hands were on me. I wanted the ball bad. He gave up on it because he didn't think I could catch it."
Kinney said he was pushed, but was angry at himself for not staying with Williams.
Johnson increased the lead to 26-10 on a 33-yard run with 9:01 left in the third quarter. Willie Gillus, who replaced Revels early in the fourth period, threw a three-yard pass to Tyrone Barlow for a 33-10 lead.
Dale Browder kicked his second field goal of the day, a 27-yarder, with 8:10 remaining and Alphonso Wiggins gave the Spartans their highest scoring total of the season on five-yard run with 1:49 left.
This was the second time this year Howard has lost by more than 30 points. It lost to South Carolina State, 48-15, in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game.
If there was any solace for the Bison it was that Epps, a freshman, finished with 89 yards on 11 carries. Norfolk had not permitted an individual more than 60 yards in any other game.
After the game, Jeffries would not say whether he would strictly use his younger players in the final three games. However, senior quarterback Brian Sloan played today only after Brown had the wind knocked out of him.
"Our players have not quit on us yet," said Jeffries. "I expect all of them to keep playing hard in every one of our last three games."