Savannah, GA, Sept. 24--Antoine Rutherford ran for two touchdowns and Jamar Smith ran for one and caught a pass for another as Howard University defeated Savannah State, 39-21 in a non-conference game at T.A. Wright Stadium. The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Bison (2-2) while the much-improved Tigers (0-4) remain winless.
Rutherford, a junior from Hollywood, FL, got the Howard attack untracked early, scoring on two, one-yard runs during a two-minute span that gave his team a 14-0 first quarter lead.
Savannah State showed signs that this was a different team from the ones that the Bison had outscored, 110-10 in the two previous meetings when it went 92 yard in six plays to get within, 21-7 at the beginning of the second quarter. The key play was a 52-yard hookup between freshman quarterback Garrett Williams and wide receiver Clyde Tullis.
Howard answered less than two minutes later when senior quarterback Ronald Venters found junior wide receiver Jarahn Williams, who got behind the Tigers’ secondary, for a 53-yard scoring play.
Then the Tigers, who have 40 freshmen on their roster, nine of whom start, refused to fold and closed the deficit to 21-14 at the half on another TD pass from Williams, this one to Terren Kirkland from 8 yards.
On Savannah State’s first possession of the second half, Williams threw one of two interceptions on the night. Howard senior strong safety Jamar Butler picked it off and set up a 12-yard TD run by Smith that increased the Bison lead to 27-14.
But the Tigers, who seemed to gain more and more confidence with each possession, put together a 73-yard drive that was capped off by 9-yard pass from Williams to Tullis. That made the score, 27-21 with 11:09 in the third quarter.
As much as Rutherford’s running proved to be a key in the win, it was his pass receiving ability on one play that went a long way to decide the outcome.
With the Bison clinging to a 27-21 lead and facing a third-and-22, it was Rutherford, who took a short, low Venters’ pass off his shoetops and turned it into a 27-yard play that set up an 11-yard TD pass from Venters to senior tight end Samuel Buck. It seemed to give Howard the breathing room it needed as the defense turned up the heat and shut down the upstart Tigers and their impressive young quarterback.
In all, Howard rushed for 227 yards while limiting the Tigers to minus 9 yards rushing.
But the Bison pass defense was victimized for the second straight week, this time by Williams, a true freshman, who completed 22 of 35 for a career-high 303 yards and three TDs. His main target was the talented Tullis, who grabbed five for 155 yards and two scores.
Venters had a solid performance for Howard, completing 10 of 18 for 161 yards, 3 TDs and an interception.
Defensively, Danual Pearce (10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses), Timothy Lockett (8 tackles), Jesse Hayes (4 tackles) and Butler (4 tackles, an interception) all played well.
NEXT UP: The Bison travel to Charleston, SC to take on Charleston Southern at 1:30 p.m. next Saturday.