The Howard Bison football team traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday Aug. 27 for the Week Zero opener against Alabama State University in the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff.
Prior to the contest, the Bison received speeches from former NFL second-overall pick Robert Griffin III and Pro Bowler Kyle Pitts. The team was fired up and ready to go by gametime. Playing this game on national television in this atmosphere was bound to cultivate something special.
The original kickoff was set for 7 p.m., but seven lighting strikes that started at 6:20 p.m. sent teams to the locker room.
When the game finally started, the Bison took the opening kickoff. The first drive, led by preseason All-MEAC quarterback Quinton Williams, went smoothly for the Bison, as they drove inside the Alabama State 20-yard line. The drive stalled inside the red zone, and sophomore kicker Dylan West converted a 33-yard field goal to give the Bison an early 3-0 lead.
Unfortunately, good fortune would be short-lived for the Bison, as on their second drive of the game, Williams threw an interception. This premiered the team’s turnover problem that plagued the team last season, where the Bison had 23 giveaways compared to only three takeaways.
When asked by The Hilltop after the game about bouncing back from giveaways, Williams said, “Coming off a turnover can be really tough, but you have to learn to have a next play mentality and move on. Personally, I really just want to let that play go and revert back to my basic reads and knowledge of our play calling so I don’t make the same mistake twice.”
Another weather delay was announced during the Alabama State drive following Williams’ interception, “The biggest challenges from the unexpected weather delays were really just trying to stay in rhythm and continuously trying to get myself and my teammates going time and time again after sitting inside the locker room. I found myself just staying active while still waiting and reviewing plays with my teammates,” Williams said.
When the play resumed, the Hornets completed their drive with a touchdown, taking a 6-3 lead. Early in the second quarter, the Hornets scored another touchdown, bringing their lead to 13-3. The first half of play ended on a missed field goal by Howard, as they trailed 13-6.
After a near perfect punt by Howard’s Philip Richards pinned the Hornets at their own 1-yard line, Alabama State’s backup quarterback came in and threw a big completion to flip the field. Richards then capped off a 99-yard scoring drive that extended their lead to 20-6.
With their backs against the wall, Williams and the Bison offense rallied for a scoring drive capped off by a touchdown run by Jarrett Hunter with 10:01 left to play, bringing it to a 1 score game, with the score sitting at 20-13.
The Bison were given new life with this score and were a few defensive plays away from cementing their comeback. However, they had no such luck, as Alabama State ran the clock down with a scoring drive that lasted over six and a half minutes in the fourth quarter to make it a two-score game at 23-13, leaving the Bison insufficient time to mount a comeback.
After an eighth lightning strike late in the fourth- quarter during a Howard possession, another delay was mandated. Play never resumed, and Alabama State was declared the winner, the final score remaining 23-13.
The Bison hope to bounce back in week one as they travel to Hampton, Virginia, for their annual bout against the Hampton Pirates in the ‘Battle of the Real HU.’ The team will not be lacking any motivation, as Howard lost this game last year at home 48-32. This will be the 97th meeting between the two teams, and it is a rivalry that is sure to induce intense competition.
Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett