After missing more than two games with a sprained foot, Howard starting quarterback Bobby Townsend returned feeling better today. But when a second-quarter sack sent Townsend out of the game with a lacerated forehead and a concussion and the Bison blew a 16-point lead, Roy Anderson stepped in.
Anderson delivered, throwing for three touchdowns, the final one coming on a 25-yard pass to Tauric Rice with 35.4 seconds left that gave Howard a 29-23 victory over Norfolk State today in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before 5,523 at Dick Price Stadium. The win stopped Howard's three-game losing streak.
Townsend needed stitches above his right eyebrow and suffered a concussion plus a contusion on his nose after Norfolk State linebacker Mike Kelly blind-sided him late in the second quarter. In addition, Townsend was scheduled for X-rays on his nose when Howard (3-5, 2-3) came back home.
"I don't remember the hit at all," Townsend said. "I'm still a little dizzy, and I've got a headache. I felt we were doing really well in the first half, and I felt in control of the game."
Townsend looked sharp and completed 10 of 14 passes for 195 yards.
Anderson, meanwhile, had struggled against Towson and North Carolina A&T. But after throwing for a touchdown on his first play today and completing 9 of 16 passes for 121 yards, he seemed more confident.
"I just had a [better] feel for it today," Anderson said. "I was more comfortable out there."
Elijah Thurmon helped both quarterbacks feel good. The senior caught nine passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns as Howard threw for 316 yards and totaled 413 yards overall.
"We've got confidence in either quarterback," Thurmon said. "Whatever happens, happens--we can [deal with it]."
Howard Coach Steve Wilson said he liked Anderson's play. Wilson said some of the problems Anderson had the past few weeks were learning experiences that helped him in this game.
"The bottom line is this: He drove us for the winning score," Wilson said.
Howard had blown leads of 16-0 and 23-9 and the game was tied at 23 when the Bison drove 64 yards for the deciding touchdown. Anderson's 12-yard scramble gave Howard a key first down early in the drive.
Two Norfolk State penalties on third downs were crucial. Howard faced second and 10 from the Norfolk State 25 when Anderson flipped a short screen to Rice. Wide receiver Kevin Simmonds and linemen Mpumi Masimini and Levar Young all delivered crushing blocks to spring Rice.
"I wanted to get the first down, but I also wanted to get the touchdown," Rice said.
The Spartans (1-7, 0-6) couldn't convert numerous first-half scoring chances. They made it to the Howard 22, 43, 26, 34, 34 and 20--but scored only when Leon Grove returned a blocked extra point for two points.
Howard took a 3-0 lead when Charles Card kicked a 25-yard field goal with 7 minutes 30 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Bison then scored two possessions later on Jermaine Hutchinson's three-yard run.
Anderson's first touchdown pass made it 16-0 with 53 seconds left in the half, but that's when Grove returned the blocked extra point. Theo Harrison (12 for 27, 141 yards) replaced starting quarterback Maurice Selby in the second quarter and sparked the Spartans' offense.
Damien Smith ran for a one-yard score on Norfolk State's first possession of the second half, but the Bison answered on their next possession when Anderson threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Thurmon for a 23-9 lead with 9:09 left in the quarter.
Norfolk State tied it with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Smith ran for an 11-yard score on the third play of the quarter, and Harrison threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Green with 6:22 left. Harrison then threw a two-point conversion pass to Angelo Todd.