It took until the early hours of Sunday morning for Eddie Robinson to win his first game as a head coach. But finally, after three weather delays and an entertaining game, Alabama State came away with an impressive 23-13 win over Howard in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.
Both offenses started slowly. Auburn transfer Dematrius Davis got the nod for the Hornets and but was unable to do anything with his first drive. Meanwhile the seasoned Quinton Williams made the start for Howard however, after his team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, he tossed an errant pick to ASU defensive back Adrian Maddox.
Shortly after Maddox’s interception another lightning strike delayed the game even further at the 4:28 mark in the first quarter.
If there was any worry that the delay would kill ASU’s momentum, though, Davis and company made it clear quickly that that wasn’t the case. After the break, Davis found running back Santos Dunn for a 22 gain. That play sparked the first touchdown of the night one snap later. When the first quarter (finally) came to an end, Alabama State led 6-3.
Davis kept making big plays in the second quarter. On the first play of the frame, Davis unloaded a 34-pass behind the Bison defense that was hauled in by La’Vontae Shenault. A few plays later, Davis found Isaiah Scott in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown.
By this point, viewers just tuning in wouldn’t know that Davis was only a freshman. He was playing fluid, loose and confident and his Hornets were up 13-3.
It seemed as though every time Howard had their chances to recapture momentum, they couldn’t capitalize. Late in the first half, the Bison finally started to put a drive together. Williams led a 17-play series that chewed up over seven minutes, however it only resulted in a field goal. Shortly after, the Bison recovered a Davis fumble but Williams was sacked on fourth down to kill the drive. Even seconds before the break, Howard blocked a punt deep within ASU territory but missed their field goal try
Despite all their chances, the Bison still trailed be seven at the break.
It was much of the same when the third quarter started. Howard got a decent drive going but penalties an untimely sack thwarted any progress.
Davis left the game with a cramp midway through the third and backup quarterback Myles Crawley came in. On Crawley’s first play he connected with Scott for a 61-yard catch-and-run. Two plays later running back Jacory Merritt scampered in from 21 yards out to put ASU up 20-6. Davis would later return.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Howard finally got its first touchdown. Jarret Hunter’s five-yard scoring run cut the ASU lead back to seven with 10:01 to play.
Alabama State, though, put the game on ice with a lengthy scoring drive that ate over six minutes off the clock. Thanks to their bruising run game, the Hornets tacked on three more to go on top 23-13, the eventual final.
One more late weather delay hit the game with 2:12 left to go. The game was eventually called by officials. At the time Howard had the ball with a first down.
Davis had a sensational first showing for the Hornets, throwing for 186 yards and rushing for another 24. He did toss one pick but if Saturday night was any indication for what lies ahead for ASU, the team is in good hands.
Alabama State’s win marks the first time a SWAC team has won the game since Prairie View A&M defeated NC Central in 2018. The MEAC, though, still leads the all-time series 10-5 over the SWAC.
Howard struggled greatly with sustaining drives and with penalties. The Bison were flagged eight times for 65 total yards. Williams finished his night with 146 yards and an interception.
The Hornets will return home next Saturday to face Miles College while Howard will travel to Hampton for a date with the Pirates.