The Howard Bison hoped that today's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game against North Carolina A&T would be a turning point for their season. The Bison hoped to win their final five games and create a chance to play in the Heritage Bowl.
Instead, everything fell apart. Howard unexpectedly had to play without starting quarterback Bobby Townsend, its offense could do little and the defense and special teams struggled as North Carolina A&T handed the Bison their worst loss in eight years, 51-0, before 28,793 at Aggie Stadium.
The Bison fell to 2-5 overall (1-3 MEAC), their worst start since 1991, when they finished 2-9 and lost their season finale to Delaware State, 56-12. Today's game also was the first time the Bison have been shut out since 1992, when they lost their season opener to Morehouse, 7-0.
"They beat us offensively, and they beat us defensively," Howard offensive lineman Mpumi Masimini said. "It was just a bad situation."
Howard Coach Steve Wilson thought Townsend would return to the starting lineup after missing nearly two weeks because of a sprained foot, but he decided late Friday night to hold him out. Without Townsend, the Bison gained just 118 yards today.
"We practiced on the field [Friday] and the foot just didn't respond," Wilson said. "The field conditions were very, very bad. The field was a quagmire."
North Carolina A&T's defense also caused many of the Bison's problems. The Aggies (6-1, 4-0) often put eight or nine players near the line of scrimmage, and they blitzed constantly.
The Bison ran for just 24 yards on 40 attempts, and quarterback Roy Anderson was ineffective, completing 8 of 24 passes for 88 yards. Wilson started redshirt freshman Donald Clark at quarterback, and although Clark left after the first series, he returned during the second half--not that it made much difference.
Two of Howard's punts were blocked and a bad snap prevented punter Jason Walker from even getting a kick away another time. Howard also lost two fumbles, and was penalized seven times for 34 yards. In addition, 10 of the Aggies' 15 possessions started in Howard territory.
"When you have that many mistakes back-to-back, it's hard to [win]," Howard running back Jermaine Hutchinson said after being held to 17 yards rushing on 12 carries. "I don't know exactly what happened."
The Aggies didn't have a drive longer than 56 yards or 3 minutes 15 seconds. The Aggies scored seven times in five plays or less. Running backs Desmond Adams (79 yards rushing) and Mo Smith (64 yards) led a ground game that totaled 280 yards and dominated the game.
The Aggies' first four possessions started at the Howard 16, the Howard 32, the North Carolina A&T 44 and the Howard 46. The Aggies began their fifth possession at the Howard 11, but fumbled on the first play--one of three turnovers by the Aggies that saved the Bison further embarrassment.
Howard defensive backs Omar Evans and Vontrae Long mishandled possible interceptions that would have stopped the Aggies' first two scoring drives, and middle linebacker Rhoan Hill missed a tackle that let quarterback Jason Battle score on the Aggies' third series as North Carolina A&T took a 21-0 lead just 12 minutes into the game. North Carolina A&T increased the lead to 31-0 at halftime.