It was the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for Howard University and Norfolk State University and it showed on the field as they battled to the end. Using a strong second half, the Howard Bison (3-4, 1-0 in the MEAC) came from behind during their homecoming game, to beat the Norfolk State Spartans 27-23 before an overflow crowd at Greene Stadium.
The Bison, the defending co-champions of the MEAC, are on a mission to win the conference outright with a trip to the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta in December. Norfolk State (2-5, 0-1 in the MEAC) pushed Howard to the limit.
The Bison opened the game with a nine-play, 83-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard plunge by graduate quarterback Quinton Williams, of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, at the 10:10 mark to make it 7-0.
The Spartans answered with a drive of its own, but Howard forced a field goal. Norfolk State would go on to score twice more sandwiched around a Howard field goal by Aaron Bickerton to make it a one-possession score, 17-9 Norfolk State at the half.
With the Bison faithful getting a little antsy, the team woke up and slowly began to turn things around in the second half. With Williams at the helm, the Bison rallied on his short passing and the running of sophomore Eden James who caught a short Williams pass and turned it into a 45-yard TD at the 8:13 mark of the final stanza.
A two-point conversion tied the game at 20. But the Spartans refused to go away and regained the lead at 23-20 on Grandin Wilcox’s 50-yard field goal with a little under six minutes remaining.
Then Williams put together a nine-play, 64-yard drive that he capped off with a 15-yard pass to senior running back Jarret Hunter, making the score 27-23 with just 1:17 on the clock.
Williams rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown and completed 14 of 24 for 240 yards and a touchdown. He was named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Week.
The Spartans refused to go away and quickly marched the ball down the field. With only a few seconds remaining and no timeouts, Norfolk State was forced to go to the end zone. Senior All-America safety Kenny Gallop, Jr. then came up with the play of the game. The native of Portsmouth, Virginia intercepted the ball at the Howard one-yard line with five seconds to preserve an important win.
“The game played out as such,” said Howard head coach Larry Scott, in his fourth year at the helm. ” It was the tale of two halves. The team stepped up and made the necessary adjustments to finish the game.”
Gallop, one of the team captains along with Williams, finished with 11 tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack and an interception. The first team all-MEAC selection was named the MEAC Defensive Player of the Week.
“In the first half, Norfolk State did some things we had not seen on film,” said Gallop. “We made some adjustments, we tackled better and played more physically. Coach always says that we have to be resilient, play one play at a time, and to finish. It was a big win but we have a ways to go.”
Howard continues its quest for a championship when it travels to Dover, Delaware, to take on the Hornets of Delaware State on Saturday, Oct. 28 at noon.