Remember when Howard pulled off the biggest point-spread upset in college football history a month ago?
Many assumed the Bison would settle back to obscurity, no longer in the limelight or euphoria of the media. However, that could be further from reality. The Bison are proving they are no one-hit wonders.
When Howard upset UNLV of the Football Bowl Subdivision in Las Vegas on Sept. 2 behind a brilliant college football debut of Caylin Newton, Cam Newton’s little brother, many skeptics were waiting for Howard to fall back off. Those with more understanding to the evolving landscape of the program understood Howard was on the verge of special beginnings.
Howard’s 38-31 loss to Kent State, another FBS foe, left both sides on the fence of their arguments. But on Sept. 28, Howard ran into the path of Football Championship Subdivision juggernaut Richmond. The Bison got pummeled by the Spiders 68-21. The naysayers were quick to give their I told you so’s.
But that did not deter the program’s development. First year head coach Mike London has a plan that goes beyond just one upset win. Newton’s emergence as a true freshman quarterback is not fizzling out any time soon. They have proved that as their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule is underway.
On Saturday, Howard routed conference rival Morgan State 39-14 at Greene Stadium. It was homecoming weekend for the Northwest D.C. school. Newton accounted for four touchdowns on the day. as he threw for two and added two more on the ground.
Newton rushed for a 19-yard touchdown in the first quarter to put Howard ahead of Morgan State 7-0. He then found Jequez Ezzard for a 58-yard touchdown in the second quarter to break a 7-7 tie. Ahead 17-7, Newton struck right out the gates after halftime, finding Kyle Anthony down the seam for a 75-yard touchdown just 26 seconds into the second half. Newton punched in the goal line for his fourth score of the day on a one-yard run that put a final curtain on the day with the Bison in front 32-7.
Howard features the MEAC’s top offense, averaging 478.8 yards per game through four conference games. They are 3-1 in the standings and right in thick of the race for the conference title.
Newton leads the conference in passing with 250.2 yards per game. He is third in passing efficiency. Coupled with his rushing efforts, he leads the conference in total yards per game with 323.8 yards. Only his 5-foot-11, 185-pound stature separates the comparisons from his older brother Cam. It’s easy to forget he is just a true freshman, and given it was his father Cecil Newton, Sr. that pushed for him to choose London and Howard, he will be a part of the program for a long time.
As for London, he could not ask for a better start. Howard is his second chance as a head coach in college football. He failed at Virginia with just one winning season in six at the Charlottesville school. After one season as the assistant head coach at Maryland under D.J. Durkin, London reshuffled the deck back to the level that he made a name for himself, FCS formerly known as Division I-AA.
He has an extensive coaching career that dates back to 1989 and saw him have a successful two-season stint as head coach of his alma mater Richmond, winning the 2008 FCS National Championship before moving on to Virginia. If he wanted to work his way back to the top under the radar, that he failed. But, his plan since accepting the Howard position earlier this year is to restore the historically black university’s football program to prominence. It appears Newton and London is an excellent combination to accomplish that goal.
Moving forward, Howard is faced with a daunting task with three of its final four games on the road. However, two of those games are against struggling South Carolina State and Florida A&M. Both are 1-4 in conference play. The Bison will be able to show how different the team is from recent past years — Howard has not won more than seven games since 1996 – by taking care of business against underdog foes. They’ll finish the season at home against Norfolk State, who is 3-1 in the MEAC as well, and on the road at undefeated Hampton.
Howard’s 2017 story is far from over to the pleasure of their supporters and to the chagrin of their naysayers. Newton and London will make sure of that as they continue their quest for either the HBCU National Championship or a berth in the FCS playoffs. Their historic win over UNLV won’t be the last you hear of them, because Howard is no one-hit wonder.