Winston-Salem State 6
In the past 10 football seasons, Howard has opened with a victory just twice. The Bison shook off that disappointing history yesterday at Greene Stadium and beat Division II Winston-Salem State, 20-6.
Howard's defense -- which ranked eighth in Division I-AA in total defense and led the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense in 2004 -- was stifling, holding the Rams to 58 yards of total offense. The Rams scored their only points when redshirt freshman Andre Che' Wade scooped up a blocked punt and ran it 14 yards for the score.
"We anticipated them giving us pressure," Rams offensive coordinator Dana Walker said. "They're a pressure defense. They know we're a very inexperienced team. They did what they could to try and dismantle what we do."
Asked whether Howard is the best defense the Rams will face this season, Walker said: "Without a shadow of a doubt. Hands down, they're the best. They're in a very competitive conference, a well-respected conference. It's been a long time since our team has seen athletes of this size and this type of speed."
The Bison pressured first-year starting quarterback Monte Purvis all day. Using different blitzes and defensive line rush schemes, Howard bounced Purvis around in the pocket like a pinball, forcing him to scramble and sacking him seven times for losses totaling 48 yards. The Bison had eight sacks in all.
"We didn't want to give him an opportunity to step back there and get comfortable and gain confidence," Howard Coach Ray Petty said.
Howard senior quarterback Ronald Venters was the key to Howard's offense despite missing many routine passes. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown. Howard tried to establish its running game, but Rams held the Bison to 80 yards on 38 carries and forced them to switch gears. Howard managed just 16 rushing yards in the first half.
Said Petty, "They were moving things around up front and confusing our run blocking schemes."
A junior college transfer who played sparingly in 2003 and redshirted the 2004 season, Venters said he wasn't stepping into his throws in the first half, leading to many incomplete passes. But he did show some poise and precision that was promising for next week's game against visiting Hampton.
After the Rams scored on a blocked punt, Venters led the Bison on a 14 play, 79-yard scoring drive that he capped with a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Jarahn Williams. It was Venters's first touchdown pass at Howard.
On the next drive, Venters completed five consecutive passes, leading Howard to the Winston-Salem 16-yard line. The barrage of completions put the defense off balance, and senior running back Keon Coleman took it from there, hitting a huge hole in the right side of the line for an easy score.
"I thought [Venters] started off the first quarter a little nervous, a little anxious," Petty said. "I think this week, between this game and the second game, you'll see a major improvement in him."
* GEORGETOWN 19, BUCKNELL 16: In Lewisburg, Pa., Eric Bjonerud kicked a game-tying fourth-quarter field goal and then nailed the game-winner in overtime to lift the Hoyas to a comeback victory.
Bucknell (0-1, 0-1 Patriot League) had the first possession in overtime but Josh DeStefano fumbled on the first play, opening the door for the Hoyas.
Bjonerud capped a nine-play, 61-yard drive with a 26-yard field goal with 5 minutes 46 seconds left in the game. Then, after three plays picked up nine yards on the Hoyas' first possession in overtime, Bjonerud hit a 33-yarder for the victory.
Georgetown (1-0, 1-0) trailed 16-0 after Ryan Korn kicked his third field goal of the game with 11:56 to go in the third quarter, but the Hoyas started a comeback with a 42-yard touchdown pass by Nick Cangelosi to Kenny Mitchell.
Bucknell turned the ball over on the next possession and Cangelosi immediately threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Van Fleet, cutting the 16-point deficit to two in just 90 seconds.
Cangelosi finished 9 of 20 for 168 yards and two interceptions for the Hoyas. Blamah Sarnor scored the Bison's lone touchdown on a one -yard run in the first quarter.
* BOWIE ST. 12, JOHNSON C. SMITH 9: Ronald Walls kicked a 27-yard field goal with two seconds left in the game to give the Bulldogs the victory at home.
Bowie State (2-0) trailed 9-0 going into the fourth quarter. But Darron Ellis caught a 24-yard pass from Richard Armstrong with 11:43 left and Walls kicked the extra point. Kalvin Ford tied the game with a safety with 6:07 remaining.
Herbert Collins III kicked a 26-yard field goal for Johnson C. Smith's first score. Andre Williams ran six yards for the only touchdown for the Bulls (0-2). Both scores came in the second quarter