Facing a two-possession deficit early in the second half, the Howard football team stormed back with three consecutive touchdowns before clinging to a 30-27 victory over Morehouse on Saturday in the inaugural Nation’s Football Classic in front of 18,409 at RFK Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Greg McGhee threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Willie Carter with 12 minutes 54 seconds left in the game, giving the Bison a 23-20 lead. Shortly after tailback Charles Brice scored on a 17-yard run for a 30-20 cushion six minutes later, Howard’s first win appeared certain.
But Brice fumbled and Morehouse safety Latavius Watts scooped up the ball and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown with 2:20 to play. Howard recovered the ensuing onside kick, but the Tigers got it back and used a 57-yard pass from quarterback Byron Ingram to wide receiver Derrick Hector to get to the Howard 25 with 17 seconds left.
Ingram spiked the ball on first down, and on the game’s last snap with Morehouse out of timeouts, senior defensive end Corey Berry sacked Ingram. Only then could the Bison (1-1) truly begin to celebrate a nail-biter against their Division II opponent.
“It was a win we definitely needed after what this program’s been through the last three or four years,” said first-year Coach Gary Harrell, who inherited a team that went 1-10 last season.
McGhee completed 22 of 29 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns with an interception in directing Howard to its fourth win in a row against its bitter rival in a series that had been on hiatus for 14 years.
At the start of the third quarter, Howard had much work ahead after Morehouse running back David Carter burst through the middle of the line and scored on a 79-yard run. The Bison were up to it, though, answering with a scoring drive following a blocked punt that set up Howard at the Morehouse 31.
Four plays later, on fourth down and eight from the 29, McGhee found wide receiver Brandon Flanagan open over the middle for a touchdown, and a two-point conversion drew Howard to 20-17 with 4:13 left in the third quarter to set up the dramatic conclusion.
“We just didn’t execute in the first half,” McGhee said. “We were just giving them points. In the second half, everyone did what they had to do.”
Howard nabbed the first turnover of the game when free safety Cameron Alston stepped in front of Ingram’s pass on Morehouse’s first play from scrimmage, and the Bison were in business at the Tigers 46. From there, Howard ran four plays to get to the 10, but on fourth and two, Chris Anderson came up a yard short on a pass from McGhee.
On the Bison’s next possession, McGhee threw an interception that Justin Oliver returned 35 yards to the Howard 35. This time, Morehouse sent in backup quarterback Donnay Ragland, and he needed six plays to open the scoring on an 18-yard pass to wide Derrick Hector with 7:42 to play.
The Bison got a long kickoff return immediately following, but a block in the back brought the ball back to its 19. After moving to its 34, Howard used consecutive plays covering 12 and 15 yards to get to the Morehouse 39, but an incomplete and a run for no gain set up third and 10.
That’s when McGhee delivered his first scoring pass to Carter, who had beaten defensive back Justin Murray by a step to the left side of the end zone. The touchdown with 4:20 to play in the first quarter was the first via pass of McGhee’s career.
Howard took a 9-7 lead with 2:23 left when punter Brandon Hoffman failed to handle a high snap, and the ball bounced out of the back of the end zone. But Howard turned over the ball on its next drive on a high snap McGhee was unable to recover, and Morehouse began at the Bison 13. Four plays later, running back Winston Bodrick burst through the middle of the line from one yard for a 14-9 Morehouse lead with 44 seconds left until halftime.