Washington– Despite trailing for most of the game, Howard University football team stood tall in their home opener against Bethune Cookman University (BCU), to beat the Wildcats 26-24. This is the first time that Howard has beat BCU since 1996.
Starting quarterback Caylin Newton led the Bison with 140 yards rushing, 157 yards in the air and three touchdowns. Football College Subdivision's predicted number one rusher in the league, Anthony Philyaw, sat the entire first quarter due to an injury in last week’s game against Richmond and had 97 yards rushing on 12 attempts. BCU’s quarterback Larry Brihm recorded 185 yards passing and two touchdowns. While running back Michael Jones had 112 yards rushing and no scores.
Howard did not solidify their win against an evenly matched Bethune Cookman until late in the fourth quarter, scoring for the final time with less than a minute left on the clock. The defense for the Bison led by captains Devin Rollins and Travon Hunt, had three forth down conversions stalled and forced two fumbles. Rollins, a linebacker had a game saving tackle for a loss on fourth down following a Caylin Newton interception on the one-yard line. Rollins forced a turnover on a down which led the Bison to their final score. Hunt, a former MEAC All- American cornerback broke up a 60-yard pass intended for Jawill Davis with seconds left on the clock.
Veteran safety Leland Lassiter then batted down a 70-yard pass towards the end zone saving the Bison from a BCU Hail Mary attempt. This play by Lassiter showed his resilience after he had a touchdown scored against him early in the 1st quarter.
“I kept my head up and just kept playing the game, and on that last drive to win the game, I just played defense and did what Coach Brown (defensive coordinator) told us to do, B.I.A, Best In America, I just said ‘we have to win, we can’t lose’,” said Lassiter.
Head coach Mike London, decided to forgo two-three point attempts in the fourth quarter that would have put the score at 23-24, or 26-24 respectively, to give his offense an opportunity to take momentum.
“There was an opportunity to change the momentum of the game and go up decisively. We were having some problems stopping them and I have an extreme amount of confidence in the offense in those short yardage situations. It’s been what we’ve done all year, we’re an aggressive style team, we have almost 500 total yards of offense, and we’ve rushed for over 300 yards. You get in those situations, and you believe in what your coordinators calling, and our ability to execute,” said London.
Caylin Newton threw a late game interception on the one yard line after overthrowing to multiple receivers throughout the day. Newton who averages an interception a game, struggled against the Richmond Spiders last week throwing two interceptions that put the Spiders in scoring positions. Following his interception against BCU, Bison offensive coordinator Brennan Marion, could be seen on the sideline talking to Newton. “He tries to calm him down, and let him know that he can’t change what happened in that series, but he can change how he responds,” said wide receiver coach Mike London Jr. On the following drive Newton marched the Bison “Buffalo Soldiers,” down to the five-yard line, where he would go on to run the ball into the end-zone for the game winning score.