Washington, D.C. - Bethune-Cookman rushed for 420 yards and four TDs against the highly-ranked Howard defense en route to a 37-26 win over the Bison in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Greene Stadium. The Wildcats (4-6 overall, 2-5 in the MEAC) were able to run the ball so effectively that they attempted only five passes, completing none while averaging over 8 yards per play against the Howard defense, which came into the game allowing only 118 yards per contest.
"Our quarterback made the correct checks and I felt that if we could do that, we were going to have a great day," said BC-U Coach Alvin Wyatt. "It says a lot about your offense when you can do that to a team that was first in the conference against the run."
Howard Coach Bailey had a different perspective. "It (the defense) was bad. Point blank. We just missed too many tackles. We didn't do the things that we needed to do to stop this kind of offense. It seems like we are regressing."
BC-U set the tone early when senior quarterback Jimmie Russell capped off a 4-play drive with 15-yard scamper that gave his team a 7-0 lead. It was set up by one of several big plays by the Wildcats. Phillip Kirkland's 55-yard run was a key play.
Howard (4-6, 2-5 in the MEAC) aided the Wildcats' cause on the ensuing possession when Martin Decembert fumbled the kickoff and gave BC-U a short field. The Bison defense stiffened, but Lucas Esquivel salvaged the drive with the first of three field goals, this one from 36 yards out.
For the second straight week, the Bison continually shot themselves in the foot with untimely penalties. Yet they were able to finally get on the board late in the second quarter when Brian Johnson engineered a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off with a 17-yard catch-and-run by Jarahn Williams. It was a personal milestone for Williams who broke the school single-season record for TD passes. He now has 14.
BC-U then answered just before halftime with a 42-yard field goal by Esquivez to make it 13-7 at intermission.
Esquivel padded the lead midway through the third period when he converted from 37 yards out to make it 16-7 with 7:15 on the clock.
The Bison, feeling a sense of urgency, responded by taking advantage of good field position following a fine kick return by Leonard Moore. Johnson capitalized by taking his team 46 yards in six plays. He took it the final six yards to narrow the margin to 16-14.
But the Wildcats were not finished. Russell put the pressure on the Bison by capping a 54-yard drive with a 7-yard scamper that increased the lead to 23-14. After Howard failed to move the ball on its next possession, BC-U wasted no time taking advantage when Justin Brannon finished off a 3-play, 60-yard drive with a three-yard burst up the middle, making it a two-possession game at 30-14 at the end of three.
The Bison, who had out-scored its opponents, 87-66 in the fourth quarter coming into the game, got right back in the game when a 3-yard TD toss to Williams from Johnson capped off a 65-yard drive. That closed the gap to 30-20 with over 9 minutes still remaining.
It took Russell and the unconventional "Wyatt Bone" offense less than three minutes to get another score. Russell found a seam in the Howard defense and zigzagged his way 44 yards to the end zone to all put the game away.
The Bison added the game's last score on a two-yard run by Karlos Whittaker, but all it did was reduce the final deficit.
"They (Bethune-Cookman) have the ability to cut and run," observed Bailey. "They cut us down on the perimeter and then they were able to run away from us."
Howard will be sure to hold on their ranking as one of the top teams in time of possession as it was able to hold onto the ball for 35-plus minutes. But penalties (11 for 114 yards) and missed opportunities again proved to be its undoing as the Bison dropped their second straight home game, being out-scored, 92-47.
"They didn't stop us; we just hurt ourselves with penalties," lamented Johnson, one of the 20 seniors were honored before the game. "We got into the Red Zone, but we couldn't score."
GAME NOTES: Johnson accounted for 340 yards of total offense, rushing for one TD and throwing for two more...In addition to breaking the record for TD passes in a season, Williams extended his record of 10 straight games of catching at least one TD pass... BC-U amasses 420 yards of offense and averaged almost 9 yards per play despite four lost fumbles and 13 penalties...although there were a lot of offensive fireworks, the fans were treated to the two top candidates for MEAC Defensive Players of the Year honors in BC-U's Ronnie McCullough and Howard's Rudy Hardie...McCullough, who came into the game leading the nation in tackles with 15 per game, added to his resume with 11 solos, 4 assists, 4 tackles for losses and 3 sacks...Hardie had another of his signature performances with 6 solos, 3 assists, 2 sacks, 2.5 tackles for losses, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 4 offensive holding calls and four false starts by the linemen playing in front of him...Larry Duncan finished with 6 receptions for 77 yards, giving him 102 career receptions...Russell led all rushers with 15 carries for 141 yards, Kirkland with 124 on just six carries and Brannon with 85 on 10 carries.
NEXT UP: BC-U closes out the season against rival Florida A&M University next week in the Florida Classic in Orlando, FL while the Bison finish on the road in Dover, DE next Saturday against 2007 MEAC champions Delaware State at 12 noon.