Daytona Beach, Fla, - Howard University turned in its best defensive performance of the season, but it was not enough as the Bison fell 14-12 to Bethune-Cookman University in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Municipal Stadium.
Howard (1-9 overall, 0-7 in the MEAC) did not look like the same team that had allowed 105 points in the last two losses to South Carolina State and Norfolk State. Playing against the top rushing team in the MEAC, the Bison effectively stymied the Wildcats and their vaunted Wyatt-Bone offense.
BCU came into the game averaging 221 yards per game on the ground, but the Howard defense limited the attack to 154 yards. And fifty four of those yards came on one play.
"Our defense played a phenomenal game," said Howard Coach Carey Bailey. "They held Cookman to one offensive TD, 8 first downs and played with great discipline. They went out and did exactly what we asked them to do."
The Wildcats (8-2 overall, 5-2 in the MEAC) got on the board early in the first quarter when Corey Council returned a Patrick Wolff punt 55 yards for a score.
After that, it turned into a defensive battle as the score stood up until the fourth quarter. Along the way, the Bison had opportunities but they failed to capitalize.
Howard was finally able to break a streak of seven scoreless quarters when the defense set up an opportunity. Karlos Whittaker, who had one of his best games this season, capped off a short drive with a four-yard run. The PAT attempt was blocked, however, and the Bison trailed 7-6 with 13:36 left in the fourth quarter.
"Karlos is banged up and he is running behind a young offensive line," explained Bailey. "He picked it up and made some great reads." Whittaker rushed for a team-high 52 yards and caught two passes for 26 yards.
BCU, which came into the game averaging almost 26 points per game, got its first and only TD of the game when quarterback McKinson Souverain improvised on a pass play and scrambled 54 yards to give his team a 14-6 lead at the 7:19 mark.
But the Bison refused to quit. Floyd Haigler engineered a 15-play, 84 yard drive that used more than six minutes and was finished off on an 8-yard TD pass to Brandon Sherman. But again, Howard failed on convert on the two-point conversion that would tie the game. Haigler was harassed by the BCU defense on the attempt and was forced to throw out of the end zone.
"We have been playing in one of the most difficult situations that I have seen a program face," said Coach Bailey. "We're only playing with 44 players against teams that are well stocked. But guys have taken the responsibility to make things happen. This team has no quit in them."
Brandon Drayton was one of the players who drew praise from Bailey. The 5-8, 170-pound freshman from Miami, FL had his best day as a collegian, catching a career-high 11 passes for 70 yards and accounting for 162 yards of all-purpose running.
"Brandon is a football player and a competitor," said Bailey. "Words cannot express how proud I am to have him in this program. If you give him opportunities, he makes plays."
Another player who Bailey singled out was Corey Berry. The 6-4, 240-pound sophomore linebacker from Orangeburg, SC, finished with five tackles, including three for losses. He set the toe early in the game by disrupting the Wyatt Bone.
"Corey played his best game," said Bailey. "He has always been a disciplined player and he is now coming into his own."
GAME NOTES: The 14 points was a season low for BCU...there was a team effort on defense for the Bison...linebacker Patrick Jean Mary (9 tackles, 1.5 for losses, fumble recovery), Sackie Kerkulah (4 tackles, 1,5 sacks), Endor Cooper (10 tackles, 1.0 for a loss), Robert Parker, III (4 tackles, 1.0 for a loss) and Will Croner all played well...the Bison have lost six in a row...the Wildcats have won four in a row.
NEXT UP: Howard closes out the season next Saturday against Delaware State at home at 1 pm. Nine seniors will be honored in the pre-game as they will be playing their last game in a Bison uniform. BCU will take on rival Florida A&M University next Saturday in the Florida Classic in Orlando, FL.