Sophomore running back Aquanius Freeman rushed for a career-high 212 yards and two touchdowns to lead Howard to an easy 56-9 win over Savannah State University (SSU) in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) game at Greene Stadium in Washington, D.C.
A 5-foot-10 sophomore from New Orleans, La., Freeman averaged a single-game school-record 16.3 yards per carry, including a 71-yard jaunt against SSU.
Usually a reserve, Freeman was starting in place of normal starter Terrence Leffall, and he made the most of it. Freeman got the Bison on the board first with a 16-yard scamper that gave Howard (3-1 overall, 2-0 in the MEAC) the early 7-0 lead with 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
That opened the door for the Howard running game, which amassed 466 yards and nine yards per rush. Senior running back Jarred Brown and junior quarterback Randy Leggings Jr. got into the act: Brown on a one-yard dive and Leggings on runs of 12 and 29 yards during a seven-minute stretch in the second quarter that put the game away.
“We established the run early,” said Howard Coach Gary Harrell. “Our offensive line, the running backs, and even the quarterback, did a great job running the ball today. We played sound football and stuck to the fundamentals.”
The Tigers (0-4 overall, 0-2 in the MEAC) did manage to get on the board when sophomore kicker Preston McCarthy capped off a 73-yard drive with a 33-yard field goal.
In the third quarter, the opportunistic Bison special teams made its presence felt for the fourth game this season, this time with senior safety DeCarlos Knight blocking his second punt attempt of the season. Freshman linebacker Devin Rollins returned Knight’s gift 23 yards for a TD to extend the lead, 35-3.
Savannah State got a boost from sophomore reserve quarterback Victorian Hardison who connected with junior receiver Simon Heyward less than two minutes later to make it 35-9 at the 12:37 mark of the third period. Hardison came off the bench to complete 12 of 24 passes for 137 yards and a TD.
“Howard did not do anything different. They are who they are, a solid football team,” said SSU Coach Steve Davenport. “There is nothing positive that we can take from this game. No one tackled, no one blocked and they scored on offense, defense and special teams. They beat us in all phases of the game.”
Operating on a short field on their next possession, the Bison scored again, this time with senior fullback Justin Duncan punching it in from one-yard out. A little more than two minutes later, freshman running back William Parker scored on a twisting, winding 46-yard run.
It seemed only fitting that Freeman closed out the scoring as he streaked 71 yards for the final score.
“All of the credit has to go to the offensive line,” said Freeman. “They did an outstanding job. The strength of our team on offense is to be able to run the ball effectively. We did that today.”
Parker finished with a career-high 87 yards on nine carries while Liggins (10 carries, 70 yards) and freshman running back Terrence Tuscan (seven rushes for 51 yards) contributed to the game.
The 212 yards was the third highest in school history behind former All American Harvey Reed (260 yards against Newberry in 1987) and Antoine Rutherford (230 yards against Norfolk State in 2003).
The 59 points was the most by a Howard team since the 1998 season against Morgan State.
“We preach ball control and execution and that was what we were able to accomplish today,” said Liggins, who was 9-of-13 passing for 85 yards to go along with 70 yards rushing. Liggins has filled in admirably for sophomore starter Greg McGhee, who had to sit out his third game of the season. Liggins has yet to throw an interception this season.
Savannah State was led on offense by junior running back Sheldon Barnes (62 yards rushing on 14 carries), Hardison who added 30 yards rushing to his 137 yards passing and junior wide receiver Dylan Cook, who grabbed five passes for 72 yards.
GAME NOTES: The 59 points is the second highest in school history. The Bison defeated Morgan State, 69-3 in 1998. Senior linebacker Keith Pough was credited with half of a tackle for a loss and now needs 3.5 to break the Fox College Sports (FCS) record. The current 3-1 overall record is the best start for Howard since the 1993 season when the Bison went undefeated. It is also the last time that Howard has started the season, 2-0 in the MEAC.
NEXT UP: Howard will host Florida A&M University Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. in Greene Stadium in Washington, D.C.