INDIANAPOLIS — In a contest that saw momentum swing back-and-forth, coach Mike London and the Howard University Bison outlasted Bethune-Cookman, 41-35, in the 35th annual Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.
With the victory, HU (1-2, 1-0 MEAC) secured its first victory of the season in their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) opener. Howard also improved to 2-2 all-time in the Circle City Classic.
Howard utilized a balance attack while converting 55-percent (11-of-20) on third and fourth downs.
Overall, the Bison posted 526 total yards (301 passing yards and 225 rushing yards). D.C. native Josiah Crute led the way, rushing for 83 yards on 11 carries, including two TDs. Second-year quarterback Caylin Newton (Atlanta) threw for 301 yards (20-of-32) with two passing touchdowns in the victory.
After watching the Wildcats miss a 40-yard field goal in their opening drive, Howard took their first possession down for a TD and a 7-0 lead.
Bethune-Cookman answered with a 10-play, 86-yard drive, capped off by a 27-yard touchdown pass by Akevious Williams to Steffon Francois.
HU responded with another long drive that took four minutes, highlighted by a 13-yard TD pass from Newton to junior wide receiver Kyle Anthony (Miramar, Fla.), to go up 14-7.
Bethune-Cookman closed out the opening period with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jimmie Robinson, 14-14.
The second period saw more explosive plays from both squads. Newton connected with junior wideout Jequez Ezzard (College Park, Ga.) for a 36-yard touchdown and gave the Bison a 21-14 advantage.
Moments later, freshman defensive back Jalen Smith (Virginia Beach, Va.) returned his first interception for a touchdown and extended HU’s lead to double-digits, 28-14.
Robinson kept Bethune-Cookman in the game with a 99-yard kickoff return, followed by 8-yard touchdown pass from Williams. Entering halftime, the squads were deadlocked at 28.
After intermission, Crute dashed up the middle for a 31-yard TD and put Howard back on top, 35-28.
With time dwindling in the third, freshman Iggy Reynoso (Reading, Pa.) powered his way for his first collegiate touchdown and pushed HU’s advantage back to double-digits.
But the Wildcats clawed their way back and cut the deficit to 41-35 after a 15-yard run by Williams.
With just over a minute remaining, Bethune-Cookman was marching down the field for the go-ahead score, but an interception by sophomore defensive back Tye Freeland (Petersburg, Va.) sealed the deal for Howard.
Defensively, Howard held the Wildcats to 33 percent (4-of-12) on third down. Sophomore defensive back Bryan Cook (Cincinnati) had a team-high eight tackles (four solo) while fellow classmate Aaron Motley (Richmond, Va.) added five tackles (four solo), including two for lossed.
After the bye week (Oct. 6), Howard hits the road to Durham, N.C., where the North Carolina Central Eagles await. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
For more information, go to www.HUBison.com.