Freshman quarterback Lee DeBose threw two touchdown passes and held Howard together yesterday as the Bison, before an overflow crowd at Howard Stadium, defeated Morehouse College, 35-26.
The Bison, 3-6 and winners in three of their last four, have won two straight for the first time since 1982.
The crowd, estimated as high as 20,000, saw Howard's final home game this season and brought the attendance average to 13,500, the best in almost a decade for the team that has struggled the last three years.
DeBose completed 10 of 18 passes for 162 yards and did not throw an interception. He threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jimmie Johnson to conclude Howard's opening 79-yard drive, and gave the Bison a 21-13 lead with a 45-yard touchdown to Curtis Chappell with 9:45 remaining in the first half.
Division II Morehouse (3-4-1) lost five fumbles and its quarterbacks threw two interceptions. Each time the Maroon Tigers tried to come back, as they did with two touchdowns within a four-minute span to cut a Howard lead to 14-13, DeBose rallied the offense.
Howard Coach Willie Jeffries said the Bison played their finest all-around game in his two years at the school.
"I think it showed today that our offense finally has some poise," he said. "Morehouse had been playing very good defense coming into this game, but I think our players have great confidence now. They have been getting closer as a team, on and off the field, and it is beginning to show. Now we hope it will snowball."
The Tigers gave up an average of only 7.9 points in their previous four games, but Howard led, 14-0, yesterday before the game was six minutes old.
Three plays after Johnson's touchdown, linebacker Marvin Jackson stripped the football from Morehouse's Michael Stillwell. Kevin Weeks recovered for the Bison and, on the next play from scrimmage, Harvey Reed took a pitch to the right and ran 17 yards for a touchdown.
The Tigers caught the Bison playing tight early and sprung Stillwell through the middle for a 48-yard touchdown and Elvernie McGee for a 20-yarder to make it 14-13 with 13:45 left in the first half.
DeBose, however, found Chappell on a fade pattern four minutes later and Howard's lead was never less than eight from that point.
"When you throw it to Curtis, you have to throw it quick because he has 9.3 speed (in the 100-yard dash)," said DeBose. "All he had to do was get by the deep person, and I just threw it."
Ronnie Epps followed left guard Pat Boyd for a one-yard touchdown and a 28-13 Howard halftime advantage.
The Tigers usually try to divide their passing and running plays evenly, but quarterback Bruce Prunty was under such a heavy rush from Weeks and Billy Dores that the Tigers stayed on the ground despite trailing.
Prunty, who finished with seven of 19 completed for 65 yards, threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Danny James early in the third period, but DeBose quickly led the Bison back on a 66-yard drive concluding with Epps' one-yard run.
Stillwell, who finished as the game's leading rusher with 125 yards on 16 carries, hurt the Tigers by losing three fumbles. The Bison grew confident and began trying to yank the ball from every Morehouse ball-carrier, with considerable success.
"We watched the films, and saw that the way they run, we could do that," said Dores. "After a while, the person with the first hit would just try to hold the man up and the second man went for the ball."
The Tigers have been making crucial mistakes all season, said Coach Maurice Hunt.
"We've been making those mistakes, but we've been able to pull things out," said Hunt. "Today we had breakdown after breakdown, and every time, it was a different player. The mistakes just killed us."