HAMPTON, VA. - Hampton erupted for 38 second half points to get by Howard University, 38-27 in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Armstrong Stadium.
The Pirates (2-1 overall, 1-0 in the MEAC) were shut out the first half and trailed 7-0 before Carlos Turvani nailed a 19-yard field goal with 4:21 mark of the third period. In what was a bizarre and strange turn of events, Turvani and both teams had to wait 52 minutes before he made his attempt. The lights in the stadium went out and caused the delay that perhaps altered the outcome of the game.
It set in motion a change that started with a Herbert Bynes' 62-yard bomb to Justin Brown that gave the Pirates the lead at 10-7.
The Bison (0-2 overall, 0-1 in the MEAC) countered when Floyd Haigler capped off a 75-yard drive with an 11-yard run that made helped Howard regain the lead at 14-10 at the 3:22 mark.
That is when the Pirates' Kevin Teel made arguably one of his two game-changing plays of the game. The 5-9, 178-pound senior from Bowie, MD fielded the ensuing kickoff at his own 13-yard, found a seam and raced untouched for the 87-yard sprint to put his team the lead for good.
"I think that when the lights when out, it changed the momentum of the game," said Teel, who averaged over 50 yards per return. "That, and the fact that we seem to be a second half team. We were never concerned because we had to come back in our first two games."
Howard turned the ball over on its next possession and the Pirates capitalized when Brown and Bynes hooked up again, this time from 5 yards out to up the score to 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter.
But Howard remained resilient as Haigler, who had his best day of his collegiate career, calmly engineered a 10-play, 70-yard drive that was culminated in a 14-yard pass to Ramon McElrathbey. Dennis Wiehberg's conversion kick was blocked, but the Bison were within four with a little under 9 minutes in the fourth quarter.
It was time for Keel to perform his magic again as he returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards to up the margin to 31-20 at the 8:44 mark.
But the Bison refused to quit as they came right back on a quick, 4-play, 57-yard drive that was capped off by a 30-yard pass to Brandon Sherman with 6:28 still left. That cut the deficit to 31-27, but the Pirates defense stiffened and put the game away with a short drive that used up over 4 minutes. Jerry Cummings scored from three yards out to close out the scoring.
The loss overshadowed an outstanding performance by Haigler, a red-shirt junior who passed for a career-high 456 yards and three TDs. He also ran for another TD and accounted for almost 500 yards of total offense.
"The effort was there and it has always been there; that hasn't changed," said Howard head coach Carey Bailey. "We need to put ourselves in a position to win games. We didn't take advantage of some chances in the first half and then some strange things happened."
The Bison's woes on special teams continue. In the loss to Georgetown, Howard had problems with its kicking. While that improved, the kick coverage had its problems in this game.
"Our coverage was terrible, point blank," quipped Bailey.
The Bison also hurt themselves with a rash of penalties at the beginning of the third quarter, which either stopped potential scoring drives that would have given them more of a cushion or the kept Hampton drives alive.
"It's tough to open up the second half with three straight penalties," said Bailey. Howard finished with 13 penalties for over 100 yards.
Howard came out with a new-look offense that featured the shotgun formation and five receivers. Carter, McElrathbey, Arlandus Hood, Brandon Sherman and Daley Gunter took turns torching the Pirates' porous and often-times confused pass defense as Haigler played pitch and catch with them.
Carter, a 6-3, 190-pound freshman who was last week's MEAC Co-Rookie of the Week, caught a game- and career-high 11 passes for 107 yards and a TD. McElrathbey, a transfer from Clemson, who was playing in his first game as a Bison, grabbed 9 for 85 yards and a TD.
Hood, a senior from Long Beach, CA, grabbed 9 passes for the second straight week while Sherman, a 5-10, 180-pound junior who caught only two passes all last season, hauled in 7 for 128 yards and a TD. Not to be left out, Gunter, a 6-3, 190-pound red-shirt freshman, caught 4 for 44 yards.
In all the Bison amassed over 500 yards of total offense and held the ball for almost 37 minutes.
The defense played well for most of the game but appeared to tire in the second half when the Pirates were able to make some big plays.
"The defense was good for most of the game," said Bailey. "We're still limited in terms of bodies, and until that changes, we will have to work hard."
GAME NOTES: The kick returns for TDs by Teel were the first against Howard since October 2002...Haigler's 456 yards passing was the fourth highest in school history behind Bobby Townsend's 555, Roy Anderson's 487 and Ted White's 458...Endor Cooper had another brilliant game with 9 tackles and two tackles for losses...some of his bone-jarring tackles elicited some oohs and aahs from those in attendance...the Bison got their first interceptions of the season with Branden Bufford and Martin Corniffe getting the first of their careers.
NEXT UP: The Bison host Florida A&M University next Saturday at Greene Stadium at 1 pm while Hampton entertains North Carolina next Saturday at 6 pm.