ORANGEBURG, SC – In a pivotal Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) showdown, the South Carolina State Bulldogs secured a hard-fought 27-24 victory over the Howard Bison in front of an ecstatic Homecoming crowd of 22,269 at Bulldog Stadium. Freshman running back Jawarn Howell stole the spotlight, rushing for a remarkable 283 yards and scoring three touchdowns, cementing his status as a rising star in the college football world.
The Bulldogs’ victory was not only a testament to Howell’s exceptional performance but also a historic milestone for Head Coach Buddy Pough, who celebrated his 150th career win on this memorable day. Coach Pough expressed his gratitude to the fans who came out to support the team on Homecoming, making the win even sweeter.
The game started with a bang as the Bison, led by graduate quarterback Quinton Williams, made their presence felt early. Following an interception by Clayton Perrin, Howard embarked on a 13-play, 77-yard drive, culminating in a 13-yard pass from Williams to senior tight end Brendan Brown, putting the Bison on the board.
However, the Bulldogs swiftly countered on their next possession, as Howell burst through the Bison defense with an explosive 48-yard touchdown run, leveling the score at 7-7 with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. The Bulldogs’ rushing game, anchored by Howell, was beginning to find its rhythm.
SC State continued to move the ball into Howard territory, but the Bison defense stiffened, forcing a 32-yard field goal by Gary Zimmerman. The Bulldogs extended their lead with another sensational run by Howell, this time an electrifying 85-yard dash to make it 17-7.
The resilient Bison were not to be counted out. They put together a 70-yard drive, with senior running back Jarret Hunter plunging into the end zone from two yards out, closing the gap to 17-14 at the 8:37 mark of the third quarter. However, Howell, the Bulldogs’ relentless ground threat, struck again, this time with a 16-yard touchdown run to cap off an 80-yard drive.
Zimmerman added another field goal from 29 yards to push the Bulldogs’ lead to 27-14. Howard answered back with a freshman phenom of their own. Wide receiver Gavin Harris caught a 16-yard pass from Williams to cut the Bulldogs lead to 27-21 with 12:42 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bison’s defense forced a third Bulldog turnover. Clayton Perrin intercepted a pass from Corey Fields, Jr. to give the visitors excellent field position in SC State territory. Howard couldn’t get the touchdown they needed and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Aaron Bickerton.
Howard had multiple opportunities to seize control of the game as penalties continued to plague the Bulldogs. However, the Bulldog defense stepped up when it mattered most coming up with a timely sack of Williams to turn the Bison over on downs to end the game.
Despite the loss, the Bison’s offense was held to a season-low 245 yards of total offense, with only 53 rushing yards on 26 carries. Hunter led the ground attack with 42 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, while Williams completed 16 of 29 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other hand, the standout of the day, Howell, the talented freshman running back, amassed 283 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The Bulldogs dominated on the ground, totaling an impressive 438 rushing yards, thanks in large part to Howell’s exceptional performance.
The Bulldogs’ defense played a pivotal role in securing the win, with standout performances from junior defensive lineman Naejuan Barber, who recorded three tackles for loss and three sacks, and redshirt linebacker Aaron Smith, who led the charge with five tackles, alongside Jadin Jones.
In the end, Homecoming in Orangeburg, South Carolina, will be remembered for the remarkable performance of Jawarn Howell and the Bulldogs’ triumphant win, a day that marked a significant milestone in the illustrious career of Head Coach Buddy Pough.
All photos by James Witherspoon for CORE360 Sports