It has to get better than this for the Howard Bison.
Yesterday at Howard Stadium, the Bison blew a 23-6 lead and lost to Maine, 27-23, as freshman Bob Wilder scored the winning touchdown on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 4:29 remaining.
The loss was the 15th in 16 games for the Bison, who finish the season at home next week against Morgan State. Howard (1-8) has not won at home since defeating Morgan State in November 1982.
Yesterday, it was a broken running play turned into an interception that did in the Bison. Todd McAniff's one-yard run with 13:01 to go brought the Black Bears (5-5) within 23-20, but Howard drove to the Maine 18 and seemed headed for at least a field goal.
On second and eight at the 18, the Bison tried a play called "88 Keep," in which quarterback Leon Brown runs right, following the blocking of his two backs. But sophomore tailback Erik Green, who was supposed to block safety Steve Costello, went the wrong way and Costello was quickly after Brown.
Brown, a freshman, reversed direction and then threw a pass down the right sideline. It was intercepted by Jay Davenport at the 12. Maine's ensuing drive, a 44-yard punt by Rich Labonte and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed Howard to its own seven. A short punt gave Maine possession at the 35; five plays later, Wilder scored the winning touchdown.
"I'm just disgusted," said Howard Coach Willie Jeffries, whose team has been outscored by 119-38 in the second half.
Howard, which scored more than 20 points for only the second time this season, ran and passed well yesterday. Brown completed 16 of 28 for 154 yards. Tight end Maurice Haynes caught 11 passes for 113 yards to break Tracy Singleton's single-game school record of 10 receptions set in 1982.
Brown completed seven of 10 in the first half, including six to Haynes, but the Black Bears adjusted and cut off Howard's big play.
"We started coming with pressure in the second half," said Maine Coach Ron Rogerson. "In the first half, we were trying to defense them with coverage, but they were hitting that curl pass. Once we went with pressure, it made all the difference in the world."
Brown could only throw short to Haynes in the second half.
Howard seemed in control most of the game. Jon Nicolaisen's 41-yard field goal and a safety produced a 5-0 lead.
Maine came back on a five-yard touchdown pass from Wilder to John Nockett. But three plays later, Ronnie Epps (78 yards on 16 carries) turned a run through the middle into a 48-yard touchdown and a 13-6 Bison lead with 12:56 left in the half.
Maine's Lance Theobald fumbled the kickoff and George Lynch recovered for Howard at the Maine 18. A holding call put Howard back to the 28, but Brown threw 20 yards to Haynes, setting up a seven-yard touchdown run by Epps.
Nicolaisen's 19-yard field goal gave Howard a 23-6 lead with 4:22 left in the half. Wilder, 5-2 since becoming a starter, then directed the Bears 67 yards in five plays, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Bob Jowett.