Howard lost to Hampton for the ninth straight time yesterday for many reasons: poor kicking, a bad snap, an ill-timed penalty. But for the disappointed Bison fans who were part of the 10,500 at Greene Stadium, the 22-12 loss came down to one play.
Trailing by three points with 5 minutes 54 seconds left in the game, Howard had third and goal at the Hampton 6. Quarterback Ronald Venters tried to lob a pass to wide receiver Jarahn Williams in the front of the end zone, but safety Kyle Whitehurst stepped in front, caught the ball and raced 99 yards for a touchdown.
Instead of taking a lead, the Bison (1-1) saw their upset hopes evaporate. The interception return for a touchdown was part of the 22 unanswered points for Hampton (2-0), ranked No. 13 in Division I-AA.
"That play made the difference in the game," Howard Coach Ray Petty said. "We probably either would have tied it or taken the lead at that point."
The pregame hype centered around the Pirates' two 1,000-yard rushers from a year ago -- Alonzo Coleman and Ardell Daniels -- but the Bison's talented duo shined on this day. Howard, which rushed for 80 yards against Winston-Salem State, gained 114 yards in the first quarter against Hampton. Antoine Rutherford led the way with 116 yards on 18 carries. Rutherford, who had only 19 rushing yards last week, gained 25 yards on his first carry. Keon Coleman (H.D. Woodson), who hadn't played since breaking his leg against Hampton in 2003, scored on an eight-yard run in the first quarter, part of his 85-yard, 14-carry performance.
"We spent a lot of time in film study," Rutherford said. "We pretty much seen gaps in their defense. They were [focusing] so hard inside that it was just easy to bounce it back outside and take off."
Meantime, Howard's stifling defense held Hampton to 46 rushing yards in the first half, compared with 173 for the Bison. The Pirates finished with 89, far fewer than the 232 yards they gained last week against Jackson State. Howard limited Hampton to less than 200 yards in total offense.
But strong defense and a powerful running game were undone by special teams breakdowns by Howard, which held a 12-0 lead after the first quarter. The Bison missed two extra points, and their punt coverage was shoddy. A bad snap sailed over the punter's head, resulting in a safety that tied the score at 12. The Pirates scored the go-ahead points after an offsides penalty gave Andrew Paterini another chance at a missed field goal.
But despite all that, Howard had a chance to win late. After getting a first and goal on the Hampton 9, two running plays failed to move Howard across the goal line. Just before the fateful play, Petty tried to call a timeout once he saw the Pirates' defensive alignment. No one heard him, however, and the interception ensued.
"I knew we were in a bad formation," Petty said. "I ran all the way to the 10-yard line trying to get a timeout and didn't get it. . . . We just wanted to change the play and have time enough to talk about it, make sure we were doing the things we wanted to do at that point."
* HOLY CROSS 48, GEORGETOWN 6: John O'Neil completed 15 of 21 passes and two touchdowns and Gideon Akande scored three touchdowns to lead the Crusaders in Worcester, Mass. Holy Cross (1-1, 1-0 Patriot League) led 28-0 at halftime limiting Georgetown (1-1, 1-1) to two yards passing and 21 yards total offense for the half.
* BOWIE ST. 35, MORGAN ST. 21: Isaac Redman rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns to help the Bulldogs to the upset in Baltimore. Redman set a school record with a 99-yard scoring run that gave Bowie State (3-0) a 28-0 lead with 5:42 left in the first half. Redman had 32 carries and averaged 6.5 yards per attempt as Morgan State (0-2) couldn't stop him or the smaller Division II school's offense.