Howard wide receiver Elijah Thurmon set a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference record for yardage in a season today, but little else went right for the Bison after the first half of their game against Delaware State.
The Howard defense forced three turnovers as the Bison took a 10-point halftime lead, but Delaware State scored 35 consecutive points in the second half to hand Howard a 42-25 defeat before 4,187 at Alumni Stadium.
After coming into the game having won three straight, Howard (5-6, 4-4) finished the season below .500 for the first time since 1994.
Thurmon, a senior, made eight catches for 123 yards and one touchdown and finished the season with 84 catches for 1,376 yards and nine touchdowns. He already had set school records for catches and yardage and today broke the conference record set last year by Jacquay Nunnally of Florida A&M (1,316).
"I knew I was going to have to play a bigger role this year," Thurmon said. "I knew a lot of [pressure] was going to be on me."
Howard gained 278 yards but struggled throughout the game. Quarterback Bobby Townsend completed only 12 of 44 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Townsend and Roy Anderson, who took a few snaps at quarterback, spent most of the game running from a variety of Delaware State blitzes.
Delaware State sacked Townsend and Anderson six times and hurried them on several more plays. The Bison were able to get Thurmon in single coverage against Delaware State defensive backs several times, but Townsend rarely had time to find him.
"We could not get a rhythm going on offense," Townsend said. "The blitzes kind of disrupted us. The blitzes are a [gamble], but they gambled and won."
The Delaware State offense gained 514 yards and moved almost at will. Maurice Foster ran for 143 yards and three touchdowns despite fumbling twice. Quarterback Rahsaan Matthews completed 16 of 33 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for 57 yards as the Hornets racked up 27 first downs.
Howard started well, scoring twice in the first quarter to take a 10-0 lead. The Bison recovered a fumble by Tommie Mims on a punt return, and Townsend threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Jevonte Philpot on the following play with 8 minutes 52 seconds left in the period.
Foster fumbled later in the first quarter and safety Brian McDonald recovered at the Delaware State 14 to help set up Charles Card's 35-yard field goal with 1:53 left in the quarter.
The Hornets and Howard traded second-quarter touchdowns, and the Bison took a 17-7 halftime lead. Delaware State started its 35-point run by scoring on its second possession of the third quarter. The Hornets drove 72 yards on nine plays, capped by Matthews's 10-yard touchdown pass to Barry Mitchell with 6:29 left.
Townsend fumbled on the third play of the following drive, and the Hornets recovered at the Bison 20. Three plays later, Foster ran for a four-yard touchdown and a 21-17 lead with 4:40 left in the quarter.
Howard then punted after three plays, and the Hornets took over at the Bison 46. Matthews threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Mims on the second play. Darneri McCants ran for the two-point conversion and a 29-17 lead with 3:30 left in the quarter. The Hornets scored 22 points in just 2:59 and also got the next 13 before Howard finally answered.
"We shot ourselves in the foot early," Delaware State Coach John McKenzie said. "In the second half, we told them to come out and play with some emotion, and I think we did."