Bison Parlay Ball Control and Strong Defense In Upset Win Over #23 Norfolk State
NORFOLK, VA. - Brian Johnson controlled the offense and Rudy Hardie spearheaded the defense as Howard University upset Norfolk State University, 17-10 in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at Dick Price Stadium before a homecoming crowd of 15, 558. The Spartans came into the game ranked as high as Number 23 in the latest FCS poll and tied for first in the MEAC standings with Delaware State.
Johnson, a senior quarterback who came into the game rated as the top efficiency passer in the MEAC, ran the Bison attack to perfection, controlling the clock for over 40 minutes. Running effectively behind the left side of the offensive front, Karlos Whittaker and Frank Berchie were able to eat up huge chunks of the clock while keeping the highly explosive Spartans' offense off the field.
"The offense played its most complete game of the year," said Howard first year Coach Carey Bailey. "I told the team that if we are going to win, it is going to come down to our defensive line controlling their offense, and our offense controlling their defense."
Whittaker finished with 84 yards on 31 tough carries while Berchie chipped in with 40 yards on 10 carries. Their running set up the passing of Johnson, who completed 11 of 20 for 196 yards and two TDs, both to his favorite receiver, senior Jarahn Williams, who now has 11 TD receptions on the season. He needs one more TD reception to tie the school single-season mark of 12 held by the late Jevonte Philpot.
"He's the leader; he's the captain. If anyone deserves to get the record, it is him," said Bailey.
Howard (4-4 overall, 2-3 in the MEAC) set the tone on the game's opening possession. Following a nice return by Martin Decembert, the Bison got excellent field position at their own 48-yard line. It took Johnson six plays to take his team 52 yards, the final 17 coming on a hookup with Williams.
"This was a chance to prove ourselves," said Johnson of the team's effort. We did not start the season good, so we knew we had things to change. We didn't listen to the media about the hype of this game; we just came out and played our game."
Norfolk State (6-2 overall, 5-1 in the MEAC) responded, using the same modus operandi, traveling 55 yards in six plays with Casey Hansen capping it off with a 4-yard pass to Jeremy Wicker.
The Bison were able to regain the lead when John Mendoza kicked a 40-yard field and later added what would prove to be an insurance TD on a 53-yard TD pass from Johnson to Williams. Johnson made a heady play by completing the pass after the Spartans jumped offside and relaxed momentarily. Williams made a spectacular catch by tipping the ball to himself, stumbling and then outracing everyone to the end zone.
"I just wanted it more than he did," explained Williams of the play. "The O-Line made it possible for us to have the success we had today. It is a very gratifying win."
Norfolk State appeared to have some momentum coming out in the second half, embarking on an 11-play, 59-yard drive, but the Bison defense stiffened and forced a 23-yard field goal by Julian Castellat. The Spartans never scored again as Howard employed its usual ball hog act and kept the ball for almost 13 of the 15 minutes in the final quarter. It is important to note that the Bison came into the game leading the nation in time of possession with 35 minutes per game.
Hardie, who had one of the best games of his career, made sure the victory was in hand as he recorded 5 tackles for losses-including three sacks, the biggest of which forced Norfolk State into a third-and-long situation which it was not able to overcome.
The Spartans, which came into the game averaging almost 28 points and over 340 yards of total offense per game, were limited to 191 yards.
Whittaker displayed his versatility as he added 57 yards receiving to his day's work.
"We played very well as a whole," said Whittaker, who was starting in place of injured Terry Perry, the team's leading rusher. "We have come to a point where if someone goes down with an injury, someone else steps up."
"I hope that this game will set the tone for the remainder of the year,' added Coach Bailey.
NEXT UP: Howard hosts South Carolina State next Saturday at 1 pm in Greene Stadium while Norfolk State travels to Baltimore, MD to take on the Bears of Morgan State at 1:30 pm.