About 20 minutes before kickoff, the seats at Audi Field were fairly empty as fans scattered across the stadium watched Howard and Hampton leave the field after pregame warmups before Saturday’s inaugural Truth and Service Classic.

But as fans slowly but surely filed in, a quiet lull during pregame turned into a loud roar.

The 14,577 in attendance screamed as Vice President Harris, a Howard University alum, was introduced before performing the pregame coin toss. And that buzz never dissipated, not when each team’s band performed at halftime and certainly not as each team’s offense moved up and down the field in the matchup between the two historically Black colleges.

Ultimately, Hampton beat Howard, 48-32, in the first college football game played at the home of Major League Soccer’s D.C. United. Even with the loss, Howard Coach Larry Scott said, Harris’s appearance was a historic moment that created an atmosphere he and his players will never forget.

Vice President Harris on Sept. 18 performed the coin toss at the start of the football game between the Hampton Pirates and the Howard Bison in Southwest D.C. (The Washington Post)

“That’s why you come to Howard, to play against teams like Hampton and playing games like that and to have your fans and students and everybody be a part of it,” Scott said.

The Bison played well for three quarters, but three turnovers by Howard quarterback Quinton Williams in the third quarter proved the difference in the game.

The first half was a back-and-forth affair. Hampton set the tone on its opening drive, moving 65 yards on 11 plays without much resistance from Howard, and running back Keyondre White capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown run.

After a missed field goal by Hampton late in the first quarter, the Bison took advantage. Williams completed a 38-yard pass to Matthew McDonald and on the next play found Antoine Murray for a 40-yard touchdown to knot the game at 7.

The teams continued trading punches in the second quarter.

Hampton quarterback Jett Duffey connected with Jadakis Bonds on a 32-yard touchdown pass before Howard responded with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped by a pass from Williams to tight end Thomas Vi to level the score at 14. The Pirates scored another touchdown on the ensuing drive in just five plays, and Howard added a field goal toward the end of the half to get within 21-17.

Howard had a chance to build on its momentum to start the second half but instead gave Hampton an opening. Williams threw an interception on the opening drive that was returned to the Bison 15-yard line. Hampton scored three plays later.

That was the theme of the third quarter — mental mistakes for Howard and scoring opportunities for Hampton. After Howard pinned Hampton at its 5-yard line on the next drive, Duffey connected with Hezekiah Grimsley on a skinny post and Grimsley took it 95 yards to put the Bison in an 18-point hole.

Williams threw an interception and fumbled on the next two drives. Hampton didn’t score after the interception, but a 43-yard touchdown on the play after the fumble sent Howard fans toward the exits with the score 42-17. Hampton’s three touchdown drives in the third quarter took only five plays combined.

“Our guys came out for the third quarter ready to play,” Hampton Coach Robert Prunty said. “I thought our defense set the tempo, and that was special to see that because we were very young.”

Howard was resilient and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to bring the score to 42-32. But Hampton tacked on another touchdown to put the game away. The Bison have been outscored 180-95 in losing their past five matchups with their rival since 2015.

Scott said his young team has to look in the mirror, be willing to accept change and figure out what it needs to fix before it faces Robert Morris on the road next weekend.

“The season is a journey,” Scott said. “You got to be willing to walk. You got to be willing to go back to the drawing board each and every time.”