Johnson, Defense Combine To Give Howard Win Over Norfolk State
Johnson, Defense Lead Howard To Win Over Norfolk State
Washington, DC-October 28-Brian Johnson rushed for a career-high 142 yards, Antoine Rutherford added 91, and the Howard defense shut down the Norfolk State offense as the Bison defeated the Spartans, 13-10 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Greene Stadium.
Johnson, a 6-0, 195-pound junior transfer from LA Southwest Community College, who was starting his third game, ran the Howard spread offense with great efficiency by utilizing a punishing ground game that controlled the clock for almost 33 minutes while averaging over 5 yards per carry for the second straight week.
Johnson kept the Spartans defense off balance all day with some deft ball-handling, either by handing off to Antoine Rutherford or finding seams in the Norfolk State defense and taking on tacklers to keep the chain moving.
Howard imposed its will on the game's first scoring drive as it went 77 yards on 13 running plays, using almost 5 minutes off the clock. The Bison bogged down and settled for a 34-yard Dennis Wiehberg field goal, but the tone was set.
The Spartans (3-5 overall, 1-5 in the MEAC), who came into the game with one of the more balanced offenses in the conference, had problems running the ball against the stout Bison defense and when they tried to pass, quarterback Casey Hansen was hit hard and often by the Bison defense.
"Defense has been a strong tradition here the past three years," said senior defensive end Rudy Hardie, who had two sacks and 3.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. "We try to maintain that tradition. The defense is now playing well as a unit. You saw that today. We all made plays when we needed to against a very good offense."
With the defense shutting down Norfolk State, the offense continued to control the clock. Johnson engineerd another drive, this one, a 9-play, 78-yard deal with Rutherford capping it off on a 5-yard burst off the right side as the Bison led, 10-0 with 5:42 left in the half.
Norfolk State finally put together a drive and countered Howard's scoring drive with an 11-play, 74-yard deal of its won. But the resilient Howard defense stiffened in the Red Zone and forced a 23-yard Antonio Gomez field goal, making it, 10-3 Howard at the half.
"The defense is reaching a point where we feel we are not going to give up points," said middle linebacker Timothy Lockett, who had 6 tackles and came up with a big pass breakup on fourth down and short. "They were able to put together a nice drive, but we were determined not to let them get into the end zone."
Howard (3-5, 2-3 in the MEAC) extended its lead to 13-3 midway through the third period when Wiehberg nailed his second field goal of the game, this one a 22-yarder.
The Bison stopped the Spartans on their next possession and forced a punt. But Howard missed an opportunity to put more points on the board when junior wide receiver Terry Perry fumbled following a reception. It was recovered by Norfolk State's Chris Arzu.
The Spartans capitalized on the short field, but it took them 9 plays to go the 43 yards. Fullback Daryl Jones scored on fourth and goal from the one-yard line to cut the deficit to 13-10 with almost 9 minutes still remaining.
Howard ate up some valuable time off the clock on the next possession, but it was forced to punt, giving the Spartans another opportunity. Again the Bison defense stood tall and came up with two big plays, a hit by Lockett on a Norfolk State receiver that dislodged the ball on what would have been a first down, and a sack by Hardie of Casey that set up a fourth down that Norfolk State failed to covert. The Bison took over and ran out the clock.
"The one thing we stress is that we play well in all three phases of the game," said Howard Coach Ray Petty. "We weren't able to do that earlier in the season and now we have all three phases playing well."
GAME NOTES: Howard, which came into the game ranked fourth in 1-AA in fourth down conversion defense, went 2 for 3, allowing one conversion on NSU's lone TD, but stopping the Spartans later on their last possession...the Bison had their streak of 14 quarters without allowing a rushing TD broken...it is the first time that Howard has won two straight since October 1 last year...it is also the second straight week that the Bison have rushed for over 270 yards while limiting their opponents to under 70 yards rushing...Hardie, who ranks among the conference and nation leaders in tackles for losses and sacks, picked up 3.5 and 2.0, respectively...the Howard defense recorded a season-high 6 sacks...because of Howard's ability to control the clock, it was able to negate the Norfolk State punt return specialists who came into the game, leading 1-AA in return average with almost 26 yards per return...NSU returned one punt for 8 yards.
NEXT UP: The Bison travel to Orangeburg, SC to take on the Bulldogs of South Carolina State at 1:30 pm in a game that will be broadcast on tape delay at 10 pm that same night...the Spartans will try to snap a four-game losing streak when it hosts Morgan State next Saturday.