In his coaching debut with the Bison, Coach Mike London and the Howard University Football team stunned FBS foe UNLV with a 43-40 victory in front of 15,000 fans at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“I’m extremely proud of this team. The culmination of this day stemmed from the early workouts to just so many different things. I just give a lot of credit to the players and the coaches who were able to put the game plans together and we’re just so happy with the outcome,” expressed Coach London.
With this victory, Howard picked up its first season opening win in more than a decade, as well as their first victory over an FBS opponent in program history.
According to ESPN, the victory over UNLV has been deemed the biggest upset in college football history.
Offensively, the Bison amassed 449 yards, including 309 on the ground. In his collegiate debut, freshman quarterback Caylin Newton displayed his duel-threat abilities as he rushed for 190 yards while throwing for 140 yards. The Atlanta native also accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing and one passing).
“I tried to limit my mistakes. I knew I was going to make some mistakes but once I got settled back there, Dezmond Wortham, Kyle Anthony, and Anthony Philyaw were able to take some of that pressure off of me,” explained Newton.
HU scored on the opening drive in five plays, highlighted by a 52-yard run from Newton, 7-0.
UNLV answered with two field goals and pulled within one after the first period, 7-6.
Early into the second quarter, Newton connected with Anthony on a 1-yard touchdown pass, which capped a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive, 14-6.
After UNLV’s Evan Pantels drilled a 26-yard field goal, the Rebels were looking to build on their momentum until junior linebacker David Hudson stripped the ball carrier and senior linebacker Devin Rollins recovered the fumble and ran for a 75-yard touchdown, 21-9.
“Our red zone defense was really good. We gave up some field goals rather than touchdowns. We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times on 3rd and long situations but overall we made the plays when we had to make the plays,” added London.
UNLV responded, scoring 10 unanswered to close out the half, 21-19.
Philyaw, the MEAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, had 133 all-purpose yards and two rushing touchdowns.
“Anthony is one of the best running backs in the country. I feel safe in saying that in the way he can block, catch, and run. He’s a very explosive player and we saw that out there today. Him and Caylin combined, definitely helped the offense and we just have to keep improving,” said London.
After intermission, the Rebels’ momentum continued as they took their first lead with a 25-yard pass from Devonte Boyd to Armani Rogers, 26-21.
With less than seven minutes left in the third, a 1-yard run from Charles Williams ballooned UNLV’s lead to double-digits, 33-21.
On Howard’s next possession, the Bison manufactured a 14-play, 75-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 3-yard run from Philyaw, 33-28.
Less than a minute into the fourth, HU regained the advantage after Philyaw’s 11-yard touchdown run. Newton converted the two-point play and gave the Bison a three-point lead, 36-33.
UNLV’s Lexington Thomas put the Rebels back in front with a 3-yard scoring run at the 10:12 mark, 40-36.
Midway through the fourth, Newton took HU down the field and scored the go-ahead touchdown, 43-40.
With time running down, UNLV stopped the Bison on 4-and-1. A play later, Drew Tejchman forced the fumble and Tye Freeland recovered it to seal the deal.
“We were just making check calls and trying to get to the ball and most importantly we were playing for each other,” added Freeland, “Going into halftime defense had a meeting about stopping their run plays, and coming out in the second half that’s what we set out to do.”
Defensively, Leland Lassiter recorded a team-best 11 tackles in the victory.
For UNLV (0-1), they amassed 564 total offense. On the ground, Thomas rushed for 151 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort.
“We have to keep improving, especially on some of the things that got us today but, that’s a very humble, grateful, energetic, ‘can’t wait to play again’ locker room right now so we’re going to carry this momentum into next week’s game,” concluded London.
“What happens is Vegas, stays in Vegas unless you’re the underdog,” joked Newton.
Howard looks to secure another non-conference victory against FBS opponent Kent State in Ohio on September 9th. Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.