Homecoming or not, the Howard Bison just can’t seem to win, dropping their third consecutive game, 10-9, against the Norfolk State Spartans in front of a crowded Greene Stadium on Oct. 30.

Norfolk State overcame a festive atmosphere to turn in perhaps their finest defensive effort of the year, limiting Howard to just 78 yards of total offense and shutting out their offense in the second half. Making his second home start of the season, freshman quarterback Randy Liggins Jr. completed a mere 4-of-13 passes for 25 yards as Howard dropped to 1-7 overall and 0-5 in MEAC play.

The home crowd of 7,086 got into it early when junior safety Lanny Kelly intercepted a pass early in the second quarter at midfield and returned it 30 yards to Norfolk 20-yard line. Junior running back Brandon Drayton scored six plays letter on a one-yard plunge to give Howard the first lead of the game.

But Norfolk State (3-5, 2-4) answered before the half with a seven-play drive capped by DeAngelo Branche’s 18-yard run, which tied the game with just over four minutes left before the half. Norfolk State took the lead for good with a Ryan Estep 31-yard field goal shortly before the end of the third quarter.

Howard still had some hope after junior linebacker DeAngelo Moody blocked a punt with just over three minutes left in the game to give Howard a safety and the ball back. But Norfolk State’s defense tightened up again and stopped the home team.

The season-low totals in offense could be due to the absence of a number of starters. Howard was already missing six starters before they lost leading rusher Charles Brice to an injury early in the game. “It is extremely difficult when you have this many injuries,” Howard coach Carey Bailey told howardbison.com. “It’s tough to get anything going when your starters are not out there.  There are some young players out there who are not used to being in these situations. Norfolk State has a great defense and it was frustrating that we could not get them out of their comfort zone.”

With the loss, Howard has compiled a 4-26 record dating back to the start of the 2008 season.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO