Howard junior quarterback Bobby Townsend sat in the locker room with an ice bag on his left shoulder and a bandage covering his right hand. He had taken a beating in the season opener at Jackson State Saturday night, but he could not stop smiling--despite his team's 35-21 loss.

Townsend completed 20 of 49 passes for 309 yards in his first start for the Bison. He took command of the offense in the second half, leading the Bison back from a 21-0 halftime deficit.

Although Howard could not convert any of the three chances it had to tie the game, Townsend liked what he and the team gained from the loss.

"Making the adjustment from practice to game was [tough]," Townsend said. "It's a lot faster. But we picked it up in the second half."

Townsend has stepped into the position occupied by Ted White, who set many school and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference records in his three-plus seasons as a starter.

But Townsend pleased the Howard coaches with his poise and calm under pressure Saturday night.

He was sacked seven times and spent much of the game avoiding pressure, but he showed impressive mobility. Townsend scored on a 17-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that cut Jackson State's lead to 28-21.

When Howard's running game was shut down, Townsend went to the air. His favorite target was senior wide receiver Elijah Thurmon, who tied a career high with 10 receptions. Townsend fumbled once and was intercepted three times--twice in the fourth quarter as Howard fought back--but none of the turnovers led to Jackson State points.

"Bobby played really well," Thurmon said. "He stepped up big. I'm really happy with him."

Howard fields a young team this season, especially on defense where many freshmen and sophomores will need to play big roles.

But Townsend was the biggest question of all, and he gave the coaches an answer they liked Saturday.

"We've never had a quarterback play like that in his first game," Howard Coach Steve Wilson said. "He did things Ted White did in his senior year. His leadership was just great."