ORANGEBURG, S.C.–Howard got off to a slow start, falling behind 27-10 at halftime and then rallying to get within two scores, but in the end missed opportunities proved to be too much to overcome as the Bison fell, 41-23 to South Carolina State University in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) game on Oct. 27 at Oliver Dawson Bulldog Stadium in Orangeburg, S.C.
With the loss, Howard's chances of winning the conference title have diminished.
The Bulldogs (4-5 overall, 3-3 in the MEAC) took control early, taking their first possession and marching 63 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. Redshirt junior quarterback Richard Cue capped off the drive with a four-yard scoring pass to redshirt senior tight end Dwight Brannon.
Howard (5-3 overall, 4-2 in the MEAC) was able to move the ball on its possession, but failed to convert on third down as they had for most of the day, and had to settle for a 40-yard field goal by freshman kicker John Fleck.
As has been the case all season, the special teams have been a major factor and they came up big again when long snapper Matthew Poulin recovered a Fleck punt that bounced off a S.C. State player. It took the Bison six plays to go 26 yards with senior running back Terrence Leffall bolting in from four yards out to give his team at 10-7 lead at the 5:41 mark of the first quarter.
Then the Bulldogs began to flex with its passing game that mustered 286 yards against the Howard defense. Cue, who passed for a school-record 417 yards and four touchdowns, engineered drives of 69, 71 and 66 yards to help the Bulldogs take a comfortable 27-10 lead to the locker room.
The Bison made some halftime adjustments and began to slowly climb their way back into the game. First, sophomore quarterback Greg McGhee manufactured a 15-play, 84-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a one-yard Leffall run that got Howard to within 27-16 with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
From there, Howard's defense and special teams were able to give opportunities to the offense, but each time, the S.C. State defense had an answer. Perhaps the defining moment came when the Bison drove to the S.C. State one-yard line with the game still in hand, but they failed to convert. The Bulldogs all but put the game away when they took over on downs and scored on a 97-yard bomb from Cue to junior receiver Tyler McDonald at the 10:36 mark that made it 34-16.
Howard was able to score following an 80-yard drive but it took over four minutes off the clock. The Bulldogs would close out the scoring when redshirt sophomore Charles Brown bolted in from four yards out.
One of the keys to the game was the Bison's inability to convert on third down as they went four of 21 despite controlling the clock for almost 33 minutes.
Howard rushed for over 200 yards for the fourth straight game but McGhee was only 13 of 41 passing for the game.
Leffall rushed for 127 yards and two TDs and McGhee chipped in with 101 on 19 carries. Junior wide receiver Brandon Flanagan caught a career-high six passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Howard was led by junior safety Julien David who recorded 13 tackles and freshman Damon Gresham Chisholm, who had a career-high 12 tackles, 11 of them unassisted and 6.0 tackles for losses.
The Bulldogs were led by Cue, who was 26-of-40 for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also added 43 yards rushing on 11 carries for 460 yards of total offense. Sophomore running back Jalen Simmons rushed for a team-high 70 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown while McDonald caught five passes for 173 yards.