On the day Keith Pough took his place in the Football Championship Subdivision record book, Howard’s fifth-year senior linebacker never made it to the postgame handshake line at midfield.
When Florida A&M’s last-chance pass hit the turf in the end zone on the final play of Howard’s 17-10 victory on Saturday, Pough joined his fellow Omega Psi Phi fraternity members near the spot of the incompletion in a celebratory dance, high-kicking and grooving along to the sounds of the school’s marching band.
Pough recorded 31 / 2 tackles for a loss to break the FCS career record, and he was able to celebrate in style. The Rattlers made it to the Howard 9-yard line on their final drive and closed the game with two incompletions in the end zone in the final six seconds.
“There’s nothing I could tell you for you to understand how I felt,” said Pough, who had a team-high 17 tackles on the day. “After four years of not having a winning season at Howard to . . . now being in the driver’s seat with the keys to our fate, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
Howard (4-1, 3-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) continued its best start in almost two decades with its second win in as many seasons over Florida A&M (2-4, 2-1). The Bison defense locked down the Rattlers for most of the game and then, after allowing them to move 89 yards on the final drive, the unit came up with the game-clinching stand.
On each of the last two plays of the game, Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming tried to hit tight end Michael Ethridge on a quick streak route down the center of the field, but the timing was just off on both tries.
Instead, Howard sophomore Greg McGhee’s one-yard quarterback sneak touchdown with 3 minutes 36 seconds left in the third quarter turned out to be the game-winning score.
Howard Coach Gary Harrell is “not turning the program around,” said Florida A&M Coach Joe Taylor, who is in his 21st season as a head coach in the MEAC. “He’s turned it around.”
Howard’s defense led the way on Saturday, producing two turnovers and five sacks. After Florida A&M kicked a field goal to tie the score at 10 on its opening drive of the second half, it never scored again.
Pough — a 6-foot-3, 240-pounder from South Carolina — sparked the memorable effort with one of the best games of his decorated career. Coming in, he needed 21 / 2 tackles for a loss to tie former Western Kentucky linebacker Sherrod Coates atop the FCS career list with 65.
The MEAC preseason defensive player of the year stopped the Rattlers’ first drive with a sack and fumble recovery in Bison territory. He picked up half a sack later in the first quarter and tied Coates by snuffing out a screen pass in the backfield late in the first half.
Early in the third quarter, Pough notched No. 66, chasing down Fleming from behind for a sack on third down. In a more subdued celebration than his postgame jig, the linebacker pointed to the sky when the public-address announcer acknowledged his accomplishment.
“A couple years from now I’ll be happy when somebody else breaks my record,” Pough said, “but it makes it sweeter to earn it when you have a win against FAMU in the fashion that we did.”