Washington, DC-September 8, 2007-TJ Mitchell threw three touchdown passes, including two during a three-minute span in the fourth quarter to propel Hampton to a 31-24 win over Howard University in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before an overflow crowd in Greene Stadium.
The Pirates (1-0, 1-0 in the MEAC) took the early lead and held a 10-3 halftime advantage before the Bison (0-1, 0-1 in the MEAC) tied the score at 10-all following an 11-play, 46-yard drive at the end of the third quarter.
Hampton responded by going 62 yards in 8 plays, capping off the drive with 38-yard screen pass from Mitchell to Van Morgan. The Pirates' big play came on a blitz by the Bison defense.
"The team who made the fewest mistakes would be successful," said Howard first -year coach Carey Bailey, who was making his debut. "We played hard, but we didn't play smart. We missed a lot of tackles today. The essence of defense is tackling. We must understand what it takes to win."
Howard failed to move the ball on its next possession and it did not take Hampton long as Mitchell connected with Kevin Teel on a catch-and-run that covered 78 yards.
"We had to revert more to the passing game and we came through," said Hampton Coach Joe Taylor, referring to his team's 36 pass attempts, 22 after intermission. "We knew coming into this first ball game that one of the keys was that the team in the best condition was going to make the least mistakes and have an edge."
The Bison responded on a drive of their own, engineered by Brian Johnson, who took his team 70 yards in 7 plays, with Karlos Whittaker capping the drive with a 10-yard twisting run that cut the deficit to 24-17.
Hampton came right back, capitalizing on good field position and all but put the game away with Mitchell's third TD pass of the game, this time from 19 yards out to Jeremy Gilchrist.
Howard refused to wilt and came back with a 10-play drive, engineered by Johnson, who hooked up with Arlandus Hood from 16 yards.
The Pirates displayed why they are ranked Number 14 in the FCS (formerly 1-AA) poll and Number 1 in the SBN Black College poll as they recovered Howard's onside kick and then ran out the clock to secure their 11th straight win over the Bison.
For a first game of the season, it was well played. There was only one turnover and each team had 405 yards of total offense. Johnson had the best game of his career, rushing for a game-high 79 yards and completing 21 of 37 passes for 244 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions.
"It's disappointing because we did not win, but I thought the line blocked well, the backs ran hard and the receivers made good plays," said Johnson. "We played hard but we came up short. We have to put us behind us and build on today's effort."
The Bison also got an outstanding performance from senior wide receiver Jarahn Williams, who grabbed a career-high 9 receptions for 101 yards. It was Williams' first game back after missing a year and a half with an injury.
Whittaker chipped in with 71 yards on 20 carries and a TD while freshman punter Patrick Wolff proved to be a factor averaging almost 45 yards on 5 punts.
Defensively, Rudy Hardie (4 tackles, 3 for losses), Jarrett Burgess (4 tackles) and linebackers Robert Dowdy (7 tackles) and Endor Cooper (9 tackles, 2 for losses) all played well.
Hampton was led by Mitchell, who completed 19 of 36 for 310 yards and three TDs and receivers Gilchrist (8 catches for 93 yards, 1 TD) and Teel (4 catches for 110 yards, 1 TD).
NEXT UP: Hampton travels to Greensboro, NC to take on the Aggies of North Carolina A&T next Saturday at 6 pm while the Bison clash with the Rattlers of Florida A&M next Saturday in Tallahassee, FL at 6 pm.