Howard Stages Fourth Quarter Comeback in Win Over NC A&T
Washington, DC - Howard University scored 20 unanswered points in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter to stage a dramatic 35-20 come-from-behind win over North Carolina A&T in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before 7,035 at Greene Stadium.
The Bison (3-4 overall, 1-3 in the MEAC) appeared to be done after NC A&T (0-8 overall, 0-5 in the MEAC) took a 27-15 lead on 30-yard TD pass from Herbet Miller to Curtis Walls with 10:24 left in the fourth quarter.
"I have never seen us play so poorly," said Howard University first year coach Carey Bailey. "It was a lot of things going on. NC A&T has great talent and great coaches. But our players don't believe it because they've lost 24 straight. I'm not sure if our players had a healthy respect for them."
It did not help the Bison cause when they failed to cover the ball on the ensuing kickoff, giving NC A&T possession in good field position and a chance to make it a three possession game.
But the Aggies showed why they have the dubious distinction of the nation's longest losing streak. The inspired Bison defense stiffened and forced a field goal attempt that was blocked by senior safety Randell Means.
"We were able to get up early, but we couldn't hold the lead," said NC A&T second year coach Lee Fobbs. "The key to the game was the fumble on the kickoff by Howard and we couldn't get any points. I knew that we were going to need more points. I wasn't expecting the kick to be blocked."
Howard took over and Brian Johnson, who struggled much of the day, engineered an 11-play, 80-yard drive that was culminated by a 28-yard TD pass to Jarahan Williams. The two-point conversion failed, but the Bison trailed only 27-21 with 3:52 still remaining.
Howard attempted an onside kick that at first proved to be successful, but they were called for offsides and had to re-kick. No problem. Sophomore kicker John Mendoza was able to do it again and this time he was able to recover it, giving Howard possession at their own 38.
It took the Bison four plays to go the distance as junior tailback Karlos Whittaker scored from 27 yards out on a determined run that saw him break several tackles. The Dennis Wiehberg's kick gave Howard a 28-27 lead with 2:40 remaining.
The stunned Aggies never recovered. Howard red-shirt linebacker Robert Parker, III picked off a NC A&T pass 15 seconds and returned it 30 yards for a TD to complete the comeback.
"It's all about finishing," said NC A&T wide receiver Curtis Walls, who caught for passes for 65 yards and a TD. "We know what it takes to play close; we just have to finish the game."
NC A&T came out with a lot of energy to start the game and played as if it was its homecoming. Running back Michael Ferguson got the Aggies on the board with an 8-yard run that capped off an 11-play, 69-yard drive.
Howard failed to move the ball on its possession but was able to get a on the board when the Aggies had a mishap on their next possession. A snap from the shotgun was recovered in the end zone for a safety by the Bison.
The Bison moved the ball but each time they bogged down and were forced to settle for back-to-back field goals from Dennis Wiehberg and take an 8-7 lead.
NC A&T then took control of the game, scoring two touchdowns during a five-minute span to take a 20-8 lead at halftime. The scores came on a 67-yard TD pass from Herbert Miller to Mike Caldwell and a 45-yard TD run by Miller.
The Bison made some halftime adjustments and they seemed to work as the Aggies were held scoreless until the fourth quarter TD.
"We wanted to simplify things and not check out of plays," explained Coach Bailey. "We showed a lot of resiliency and I've never been prouder of our kids. I think today was a definition game for us."
With the game on the line it was the play of veterans Rudy Hardie and Endor Cooper on defense and receivers Larry Duncan and Jarahn Williams on offense.
"Nobody gave up and we didn't get on each other after a bad play," said Cooper, who had six tackles, two for losses. "In the first half, lack of communication was a big problem. We just had to go out and execute."
Added Williams, "(Alvin) Harper called a great game. I told BJ (Brian Johnson) to trust me and Larry. I said just find us and we will make plays."
GAME NOTES: Johnson was not as sharp as he has been, but he completed 22 of 34 for 269 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions and made the plays he needed to...Williams finished with a career-high 9 receptions for 142 yards and a TD...he now has 9 TDs on the season, three shy of the school record held by the late Jevonte Philpot...both Terry Perry (10 carries, 49 yards) and Leonard Moore suffered injuries during the game so Frank Berchie and Whittaker had to pick up the slack...Berchie finished with 36 yards while Whittaker led the team with 57 yards on 9 carries including the inspirational TD run...Parker's interception for the game clincher was the first of his career...Howard continues its time of possession dominance...the Bison controlled the clock for 38 minutes.
NEXT UP: NC A&T hosts Bethune-Cookman for homecoming next week while the Bison travel to Norfolk, VA to take on the first place Spartans of Norfolk State at 1 pm.