Bison Drop Season Opener To Rival
Hampton, VA-September 9-During pre-game interviews and teleconference calls, Howard Coach Ray Petty openly voiced his concerns about opening the season against the nationally ranked Hampton Pirates, who had a game under their belt after a 27-26 come-from-behind overtime victory over Grambling. Petty lamented over the inexperience of his team in some areas and the challenge it faced against a deep and experienced Hampton team, that boasts 28 seniors, 17 of them starters who have played in back-to-back 1-AA playoffs.
Few can doubt Petty's ability to prognosticate after Hampton dominated the Bison in all phases of the game during a 46-7 victory in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener for both teams before 12,188 at Armstrong Stadium.
"The fact that Hampton had a game in made a huge difference," explained Petty. "They were able to correct a lot of mistakes between their first game and this game. That's where experience comes in."
Howard showed its competitive spirit early as it stopped the potent Pirates' offense and held them to two early field goals and trail only, 6-0. But the Bison's offense, which started the game with only three starters from last season, was unable to get untracked and the Pirates began to flex their muscles, scoring on their next two possessions to take a 20-0 lead at halftime.
The balanced attack of senior running back Alonzo Coleman (25 carries, 172 yards, 3 TDs) and the passing of senior quarterback Prince Shepherd (17 of 23, 250 yards, 2 TDs; 10 rushes, 48 yards) kept the highly regarded defense off balance all day.
Using the three-quarterback system of William Blanden, Floyd Haigler and Martin Decembert, Howard never developed any consistency.
"We were playing with quarterbacks with no college experience and it showed,' said Coach Petty. "None of them had taken a snap before this game. We gave up a lot of big plays and they backed us up a lot into poor field position."
Even with all that, Howard still was one or two plays away from a touchdown that would have gotten it back in the game. But each time, a turnover, a miscue or an untimely turnover proved to be both costly and frustrating.
"We had a lot of miscues," said Howard first-year offensive coordinator Linwood Ferguson. "When we got something going, things would just break down. It felt like we were putting our fingers into a dike."
The Pirates (2-0, 1-0 in the MEAC) all but put the game away on Coleman's 16-yard TD run and a 29-yard TD pass from Shepherd to Onrea Jones (5 receptions, 83 yards) in the third period.
The Bison (0-1, 0-1 in the MEAC) avoided the shutout when sophomore quarterback Decembert connected on a 33-yard scoring play to Stephane Assoumou (4 receptions, 60 yards) late in the fourth quarter. Assoumou, a 5-8 junior from Largo, MD (Riverdale Baptist) made a beautiful play, wrestling the ball from the Hampton defender and holding onto it after being hit. Decembert finished the game 5 of 9 for 57 yards while also rushing for 38 yards.
On the day, the Bison did manage 204 yards rushing, led by Blanden with 56 on 7 carries, but the trio of signal callers managed only 125 yards passing on 15 completions.
Defensively, senior linebacker Timothy Lockett (9 solos, 3 assists), junior linebacker Danual Pearce (5 solos, 6 assists) and sophomore defensive end Endoor Cooper (6 solos, 2 assists, a tackle for a loss) all played well in defeat.
On a down note, Hampton displayed some questionable sportsmanship when it opted to kick a meaningless field goal as the clock expired rather than run out the clock.
GAME NOTES: The TD pass by Decembert, the TD catch by Assoumou and the PAT by Dennis Wiehberg were all career firsts...The Pirates rolled up 587 yards of total offense with a desired balance of 287 rushing and 286 passing...the Bison converted only 2 of 12 on third down attempts while Hampton was 7 of 14...the Pirates' All-American kicker Andrew Paterini was good on all four of his field goal attempts, but missed the first PAT of his career against Howard...Coleman's 172 yards rushing marked only the second time in 13 games that the Bison defense has allowed a runner to eclipse the 100-yard mark...the Bison host Florida A&M in their home opener next Saturday at Greene Stadium at 1 pm in a pivotal game for both teams, who have dropped conference games.