DAYTONA BEACH, FLA., SEPT. 19 -- No one knew how to describe tonight's record-setting Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference marathon football game at Memorial Stadium, they only knew they'd never seen or been involved in anything like it before.

Howard University set a school record for the second straight week with 740 total yards, but allowed Bethune-Cookman to pile up 678. When the final pass by Bethune-Cookman's Anthony Thomas barely escaped the hands of Lebrone Sumpter, who was standing open in the back of the end zone, the Bison escaped with their ninth straight victory, 58-51.

Howard, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the Sheridan Black College poll, improved to 2-0 overall, 1-0 in the MEAC. Bethune-Cookman, which had lost to Howard only once in seven previous meetings, is 1-2, 1-1.

The game saw NCAA Division I-AA records established for most yards by two teams (1,418), most yards by a losing team and most first downs by one team (Bethune-Cookman had 40). Howard also tied a record for most two-point conversions in one game (three), but was 60 total yards short of the single-game record of 800 set by Weber State in 1985.

It was also the second time in Division I-AA history that neither team punted in a game.

Howard's Harvey Reed rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns, extending his streak of 100-yard games to nine. Fullback Ronnie Epps rushed for 102 and Fred Killings had 99. Quarterback Lee DeBose completed 12 of 18 passes for 267 yards and four touchdowns.

Bethune-Cookman's starting quarterback, Gregg Ross, throwing out of a no-huddle offense, completed 32 of 44 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns before leaving early in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle. Three Wildcats had more than 100 yards receiving.

"I have never been associated with anything like this," said Thomas, who threw for one touchdown and ran 23 yards for another after replacing Ross. "I was supposed to throw that last pass out of bounds to stop the clock, but I saw the man standing open. I just should have put a little more on it instead of trying to loft it. I thought we had it."

The Howard coaches hardly acted like their team had broken a long string of misery against an old rival. Coach Willie Jeffries kept his locker room closed for 25 minutes after the game to give his team a long lecture on their defensive performance and overall composure. The Bison were called for 17 penalties for 185 yards.

"I'm disappointed we gave up 51 points, but I'm glad we won the football game," said Howard defensive coordinator Ben Blacknall. "This is not the way I wanted to go into the South Carolina State game {next Saturday at Greene Stadium}, but I did want to go into it 2-0, and that's what we are."

Howard scored on seven of its first eight possessions, and took a 55-36 lead after three quarters.

Reed was having great success both on sprint draws and getting to the outside on options. He scored on runs of seven, nine and 20 yards.

Reed finished the game 44 yards short of the MEAC career rushing record of 3,124 yards held by Delaware State's Gene Lake. He tied Lake's MEAC career rushing touchdown mark of 35.

DeBose threw touchdown passes of six and 63 yards to tight end Jimmie Johnson. He also had a 37-yarder to Derrick Faison and a 44-yarder to Curtis Chappell.

"In the first half, we felt like we could score on them every time," said DeBose, who has not thrown an interception this season. "When we were running around the stadium before the game, their guys were coming over to us saying they were going to do just what they did last year {a 30-6 Bethune-Cookman win}. We told each other we were going to prove to them it was not going to be like 1986."

DeBose said the rapid pace of the game, which took 3 hours 45 minutes to play, never allowed Howard's offense to get discouraged when the defense was continually failing.

"I felt it was going to be a high-scoring game, but nothing like this," said DeBose. "I couldn't believe the score. I have never played in anything like this, but I'm glad we came out of it with a win."

Ross threw touchdown passes of 15 and 11 yards to Juan Washington, 22 yards to Sumpter and 27 yards to James Jackson.

Sumpter finished with 122 yards on 10 receptions, Washington had 110 yards on nine and Jackson had 101 yards on seven.

"I am happy we won the game, but there still are some things we have to do better," said Jeffries. "I thought the defense did as good a job as they could. We had a guy right behind a guy who caught the ball but Ross is an excellent quarterback. We really can't blame the defensive backs because we really didn't get the pass rush we wanted, and you can't expect to cover someone when a guy like Ross has that much time to throw."

Blacknall said Howard was not surprised by either Bethune-Cookman's no-huddle offense or the performance of running back Kevin Finnie, who gained 133 yards after averaging only 39.5 in the Wildcats' first two games.

"It is the first time we faced a no-huddle, and it hurt us, but it wasn't a surprise," said Blacknall. "We just didn't play the run the way we wanted or tackle as well as we wanted. Bethune also showed some stuff they had never done before and I think they saved them for us, but we will not be unhappy as long as we get out of here with that victory."

Howard 22 23 10 3 58 Bethune-Cookman 10 14 12 15 51

H -- Reed 7 run (Harvell kick)

B-C -- Sumpter 22 pass from Ross (Manolas kick)

B-C -- Manolas 24 FG

H -- Reed 9 run (Harvell kick)

H -- Reed 21 run (DeBose run)

B-C -- Jackson 27 pass from Ross (Manolas kick)

H -- Jones 5 pass from DeBose (Chappell pass from Dubose)

B-C -- Ross 4 run (Manolas kick)

H -- Jones 63 pass from Debose (Reed run)

H -- Faison 37 pass from Debose (Harvell kick)

H -- Chappell 46 pass from Debose (Harvell kick)

B-C -- Washington 11 pass from Ross (Pass failed)

H -- Harvell 34 FG

B-C -- Washington 15 pass from Ross (pass failed)

B-C -- Taylor 8 pass from Thomas (Ford pass from Thomas)

B-C -- Thomas 23 run (Manolas kick)

H -- Harvell 40 FG Howard B-C First downs 32 40 Rushes-yards 56-473 30-191 Passing yards 267 487 Return yards 49 0 Passing 12-18-0 40-57-3 Punts-average 0-00 0-0 Fumbles-lost 3-1 1-1 Penalties-yards 17-185 12-135 T

RUSHING: Howard: Reed 24-191, Epps 5-102, Killings 16-99, DeBose 9-69. Bethune-Cookman: Finnie 19-133, A. T

PASSING: Howard: DeBose 12-18-0, 267 yards. Bethune-Cookman: Ross 32-44-2, 426, Thomas 8-13-1, 6.

RECEIVING: Howard: Chappell 4-96, J. Johnson 3-86, Epps 2-29, Reed 1-9, Lambeck 1-10, Faison 1-37. Bethune-

MISSED FIELD GOALS: Howard: Harvell 47.