Freshman Comes Off the Bench to Rally Bison To Win
WASHINGTON, D.C. (howard-bison.com) - Jamie Cunningham connected on a 13-yard touchdown pass to David Wilson with 22 seconds remaining to lift Howard University to a 30-29 win over Morehouse College in the Second Annual AT&T Nation's Football Classic at RFK Stadium before 16,911.
The game bore a strong resemblance to last year's match-up where the Bison (1-0) pulled out a 30-27 thriller. Morehouse had taken what appeared to be the game winner when Donnay Ragland hooked up with Devon Mann for a 72-yard catch and run that made the score, 29-24 with just 1:54 remaining.
That set the stage for Cunningham, a true freshman from Greensboro, NC who engineered the eight-play, 49-yard drive that was capped off by the 13-yard strike Wilson.
The Maroon Tigers had 22 seconds to stage a comeback but they were out of timeouts and did not have time as the clock ran out.
Cunningham came in the game after starter Randy Liggins, Jr. was benched by the coaches for losing his composure following a fumble that set up a two-yard run by David Carter that helped Morehouse regain the lead at 23-17 with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
The Bison struggled during the third period as the Maroon Tigers dominated with with its vaunted ground game that amassed 234 yards. Carter did most of the damage, rushing for a game-high 121 yards on 34 carries and two TDs.
"This game was a test of faith and will," said Howard head Coach Gary Harrell. "This gave us an opportunity to see what would happen when we are under adversity. I mean when we get to see Jamie Cunningham play outside of practice, we did not know what to expect. We asked Jamie to be ready. We threw him into the fire and he showed that he could handle it."
Cunningham completed 10 of 11 passes for 79 yards. On his second possession at the helm, Cunningham put together a 15 play, 89-yard drive that was capped off by a two-yard run by Aquanius Freeman with 2:17 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Bison the brief 24-23 lead. The drive was aided by two key penalties on third down that kept drives alive.
"We practice the two-minute offense every week," explained Cunningham. "The coaches did a good job of preparing us for these situations."
When Morehouse came back with the quick strike, Howard never lost its composure. The team was poised to win.
"Hey, it's time to go back on the field and score another one," said Freeman, who led the Bison in rushing with 64 yards on 14 carries and a TD. I just knew we had to score and not lose this game. Everyone was focused on doing whatever it took to get the win."
Howard won despite surrendering 472 yards of total offense to the Maroon Tigers. Morehouse also won the time of possession battle, 32:43 minutes to 27:17 while converting on 11 of 19 third down attempts.
"This team hung in there and refused to quit," said Harrell. "We had some adversity but we stayed together and that was the difference. We grew up today"
Howard's victory was all the more impressive as they played without All American linebacker Keith Pough and All-conference selection, sophomore quarterback Greg McGhee. Pough will be able to play in next week's game at Rutgers while McGhee will be available for the home opener against Savannah State on September 29.
For more information on Howard University Football, visit the official HU Athletics website at www.howard-bison.com