If the American bison wasn’t already on the list of endangered species, it sure is now.
The Howard University Bison (0-2) could never compete with Boston College (2-0), and pretty much anyone familiar with college football knew that before the game. The Bison are members of the Football Championship Subdivision, and not even particularly good ones—they haven’t made the playoffs since 1993.
BC was favored to beat Howard by 45 points. Most expected a easy-going blowout with the Bison, a final tuneup before facing conference foe Florida State.
But no one expected that.
BC imposed its will over Howard all over the field from start to finish, dominating the Bison en route to an astonishing 76-0 victory. The win was the second-largest of all-time for the Eagles, behind only a 78-0 victory over St. Anselm in 1941.
The Eagles set a school record for defensive yards allowed, giving up only 11 yards the entire game. The Bison did not have a first down until the fourth quarter, and it took a BC personal foul to make that one happen.
BC’s defense and special teams suffocated the Bison, keeping them out of BC’s zone for the entire game. The Eagles forced Howard punter John Fleck to kick out of his own end zone multiple times, usually resulting in big play potential for BC.
On Fleck’s first punt of the game, Sherman Alston gathered the ball at Howard’s 42-yard line, weaved through the weak defensive unit, and carried it all the way inside the 5-yard line. BC scored one play later on a rush from Tyler Rouse.
The Eagles turned up the heat on quarterback Kalen Johnson on Howard’s next drive, forcing an interception that linebacker Connor Strachan returned for a touchdown. BC had scored 14 points in less than three minutes and showed no sign of slowing down.
“As a defense, you take pride in being able to set the tone of the game,” Strachan said. “We want to be out on the field right away, every time.”
Fleck’s next punt came out of the back of the end zone once again, and the BC rushers got to him before he could get the ball away cleanly. The ball was tipped at the line and recovered by receiver Drew Barksdale, resulting in yet another touchdown two plays later. All in all, BC scored three touchdowns in the first four minutes, despite running just three offensive plays.
Head coach Steve Addazio praised his team’s effort, but did show some concern for the impending game on Friday against the Seminoles.
“You get a little bit better in that game, but your fear is that what’s going to happen on Friday night,” Addazio said.
With the game firmly out of reach at halftime, both schools agreed to shorten the final two quarters by five minutes each, quickening the game and minimizing the risk of injuries for players on both teams. It is within ACC rules to do so, as long as both institutions accept the change.
Gary Harrell, head coach of Howard, said the officials came to him with the proposal before he got a chance to speak with Addazio. While Harrell wanted his team to continue fighting, he also looked at the situation realistically, realizing the game was a lost cause.
“We wanted to make sure, as a team, that we’re not quitting, but understanding where we are,” Harrell said. “We want to be competitive, but also injury-free, going into next week.”
Howard players and coaches were in relatively good spirits following the game, looking forward to next week’s nationally televised contest against Hampton University. After getting outscored a combined 125-0 by Appalachian State and BC, the Bison will finally get a chance to pick on someone its own size. Even the mascots were having some fun—the man and woman behind the anthropomorphic bison costumes were laughing with each other and shouting, “We’ll still win next week!”
Unfortunately for the Eagles, they can’t speak so confidently about their next opponent. Alumni Stadium will undoubtedly have an electric atmosphere—in addition to being BC’s annual Friday night game, ESPN is filming a special live edition of SportsCenter from BC before the game begins. But Florida State has owned BC the past five years, taking each contest since 2010.
Running back Dalvin Cook had one of the best performances on FSU history on Saturday, rushing for 266 yards and three touchdowns in a win over the University of South Florida. With BC returning one of the top rushing defenses in the country, it will be interesting to see if FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher decides to throw more and test the BC secondary.
But if the BC defense and special teams units hold up as well as they have against Maine and Howard, BC fans should be saying “we’ll still win next week!” after every game for the rest of the season.
Featured Image by Alec Greaney / Heights Editor
Gallery by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor | Alec Greaney / Heights Editor