WASHINGTON, D.C. - On a day when the offense struggled, it was the defense and special teams that proved to be the difference as Howard University defeated Georgetown University, 14-11 in the Second Annual DC Cup at the Multi-Sport Field. The win snapped a nine-game losing streak for the Bison (1-2) while the Hoyas (0-4) are still looking for their first win.
Georgetown got on the board first when it put together a 12-play, 59-yard drive that resulted in a 36-yard field goal by Jose Buerba. The drive was highlighted by freshman quarterback Isaiah Kempf, who was six of nine for 39 yards.
From there, the Howard defense began to dominate the line of scrimmage, stopping the Hoyas running game and putting constant pressure on Kempf, sacking him twice and picking off three of his passes.
The Bison eventually benefitted from the defense's efforts by capitalizing on their fourth possession, traveling 56 yards on 5 plays with Kenneth Austin-Bruce capping it off with a 5-yard burst up the middle with just 17 ticks left on the clock in the first quarter.
It was then time for the special teams to get into the act. On the ensuing kickoff, Howard kicker John Mendoza surprised the Hoyas with an onside kick that he recovered, giving Howard good field position at its own 45-yard line. With the Bison effectively establishing the running game with Austin-Bruce and Charles Brice, quarterback Floyd Haigler used play action to find a wide open Brandon Sherman from 35 yards to up the lead to 14-3 early in the second period.
"There were some things that we saw on film that we could take advantage of," explained Howard Coach Carey Bailey. "They were lined up a certain way on that first kickoff, so we decided to do the onside kick." Under Coach Bailey, the Bison have had great success on onside kicks.
Both teams would have opportunities the rest of the half but missed field goals (three by Howard), untimely penalties and some staunch defense by the Bison failed to change the score as the Bison went to the locker room with the lead.
Howard was able to move the ball in the third quarter but a series of penalties prevented it from cashing in. Georgetown appeared on the verge of narrowing the deficit when it put together a 14-play, 93-yard drive that consumed almost 5 minutes off the clock. The drive was aided by several Bison penalties. The Hoyas had a first and goal from the Howard six-yard line but the Bison, bouyed by the play of senior defensive end Will Croner held the Hoyas on downs.
"We could have gone for the field goal down there," said Georgetown Coach Kevin Kelly. "But we decided to go for it. We felt that with the way the drive went, it would give us some confidence."
Howard appeared to have the momentum after the goal-line stand but each time they appeared on the verge of putting the game away, they committed costly penalties. The Bison ran off 15 plays but it resulted in only 22 yards and they had to settle for a 36-yard field goal attempt by Dennis Wiehberg, which came up short.
The Hoyas took over and it took them 5 plays to go 45 yards in less than two minutes to score. Kempf connected with Dishon Hughes from 17 yards out to cap off the drive. Kempf then hooked up with Brandon Floyd for the two-point conversion narrowed the deficit to 14-11 with 2:09 remaining.
Howard had a chance to tack on some insurance points but Dennis Wiehberg missed his third field goal of the game and gave the Hoyas a chance to either tie or win the game. But Croner, who had the best game of his career at Howard, intercepted a Kempf pass that was deflected by James Carter to snuff out the drive before it could start. From there, Howard ran out the clock and secured its first win of the year.
Croner finished with six tackles, two sacks and the interception. Arando Jamison and Lanny Kelly each got an interception as the Bison limited the Hoyas to 45 yards rushing.
Howard returns to action next Saturday in its home opener against Winston-Salem State at 1 pm.
GAME NOTES: Howard got a season best 142 yards rushing by effectively rotating Charles Brice (40 yards), Kenneth Austin-Bruce (24 yards) and Terrence Lefall...Floyd Haigler added to the mix with 28 yards...after recording five lost fumbles in the first two games, the Bison had none in this game...also adding to Howard's fine day on special teams was a fourth run, 26-yard run by Martin Corniffe from punt formation that kept a drive alive...Patrick Wolff, who had two of his punts returned for scores against FAMU, prove to be a factor in the win as he averaged almost 40 yards per and had two downed inside the Hoyas' 10-yard line...Jeff Miller came up big for the Bison, returning two punts for 26 yards and grabbing two passes for 28 yards...Brandon Sherman made his presence felt after missing the FAMU game with an injury...the senior wide receiver grabbed a team-high 4 passes for 61 yards and a TD...Ian Simon had his best day as a Bison...the 6-2, 230-pound sophomore had six tackles and a sack...Howard was plagued by 14 penalties for 135 yards.