Howard University Defense Dominates in Win Over WSSU
By Edward Hill, Jr.
Washington, DC, September 3--The much heralded defense lived up to its billing, limiting Winston-Salem State to 58 yards total offense and sacked the quarterbacks eight times en route to a 20-6 win over the Rams in the season opener before 8,035 in Greene Stadium.
The Bison defense returns seven starters from a unit that finished 8th in 1-AA in total defense and Number 1 in three categories in the MEAC last season.
Howard appeared sluggish early on until the Rams’ Andre Che Wade blocked a Noam Dror punt and returned it 16 yards for the game’s first score.
“Both defenses controlled the action early, but we struggled on offense until they blocked the punt,” explained Howard Head Coach Rayford Petty. “That’s when we woke up.”
The Bison under the leadership of senior quarterback Ronald Venters responded with a 14-play, 79-yard drive that consumed almost six minutes, but more importantly set the tone for the rest of the game. The touchdown, which came with 10:38 on the clock in the second half, was culminated on a 12-yard pass from Venters to Jarahn Williams. Dror’s PAT gave Howard the lead for good at 7-6.
The defense seemed to be inspired by the score and gave the Bison the ball back. Venters, using the short passing game masterfully, moved the Bison 70 yards in seven plays, with Keon Coleman going the last 16 yards to up the score to 14-6 at halftime.
“This was my first game in two years and it showed early,’
“ admitted Venters, who sat out of last season and played only sparingly in 2003. “I talked to the coaches and we discussed some of the things their defense was doing and how to approach it. After that, I felt a lot more comfortable.”
Venters completed a career-best 20 of 37 for 217 yards and a TD. He proved to be very effective distributing the ball to seven different receivers.
His key targets were Larry Duncan and Jarahn Williams. Duncan, a 6-0, 170-pound junior from Lanham, MD, grabbed a career-best 7 passes for 82 yards while Williams, a 5-10, 185-pound junior from Miami, FL caught 4 for 31 yards and a TD.
“Personally, I think we are much improved over last season,” said Duncan, who led the team in receptions last season as a first year player. “We put in a lot of work in the spring and it paid off today once we settled down.”
Meanwhile, the Bison defense made life miserable for the Rams all day. WSSU, which featured two running backs, Jerrick Bines and Martin Hicks who both rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, were limited to minus 22 yards rushing.
“Their defense is by far the best we will see this year,” said WSSU Coach Kermit Blount. “I thought our defense played well, but their fronts controlled the lines of scrimmage and they were able to move the chains and not allow us to. That was the difference in the game.”
The Bison front line of 6-3, 300-pound Edwin Piner (6 solos, 2 assists, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack), 6-3, 370-pound Jesse Hayes (4 tackles), 6-4, 295 Marvin Wooten (4 tackles, 2.5 sacks), 6-3, 275-pound Jarrett Burgess (3 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and 6-1, 270-pound Rudolph Hardie (3 tackles and a sack) proved to be too strong for the Rams’ offensive front.
The Howard running game, which had problems against the WSSU 3-5-3 defense, managed only 80 yards with Coleman leading the way with 44 yards on 9 carries and a TD.
The Bison have a short time to celebrate the win with Hampton, a 20-7 winner over Jackson State, coming in next Saturday in the MEAC opener for both teams.
“It’s great to start off undefeated and to be able to correct mistakes and get a win at the same time,” said Coach Petty.
GAME NOTES: Noam Dror had a day filled with mixed results…the sophomore from Silver Spring, MD made good on his first PAT attempts, but missed the third; he had a 42 yard field goal attempt blocked and a punt blocked and returned for a TD…senior fullback, Kevin Tyson, who is known mostly for his blocking, crossed up the WSSU defense, grabbing three passes 42 yards.