Howard 27, Southern 24
ATLANTA (AP) _ Determined to overcome a two-year slump with a bowl victory, Curtis Jones and his Howard teammates overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to win their first Heritage Bowl over two-time champion Southern.
``The seniors really had a feeling like we didn’t want to go out of our last game with an `L,′ you know,″ Jones, a cornerback, said after Howard’s 27-24 victory Tuesday at the Georgia Dome.
``If we were going to cry, we were going to cry during the game, not after the game,″ he said. ``We were going to leave the field as men.″
Howard trailed 24-10 at halftime. But the Bison defense held Southern scoreless in the final half as Howard (10-2) capped its best season since 1993.
Southern (7-5) lost its first Heritage Bowl in three trips.
Jason Decuir kicked a tiebreaking field goal and Curtis Jones made a game-saving interception at the goal line with 42 seconds remaining.
Decuir’s 18-yard field goal snapped a 24-24 tie with 3:04 remaining in the fourth quarter. Howard had advanced to a first down on Southern’s 2-yard line, but the Jaguar defense stopped three touchdown attempts.
Southern then drove into scoring position on a halfback pass from Jermaine Brown to quarterback Marcus Jacoby to the Howard 15.
Jacoby then took two shots at the end zone. His first pass was caught out of bounds by Jerry Guye, and his throw to the left corner on the next play was intercepted by Jones.
``Hey, it happens, and I regret throwing the ball,″ said Jacoby, who completed 16 of 24 passes for 200 yards and threw four interceptions in the second half. ``It’s a tough loss.″
Howard tied the score 24-24 early in the fourth period when MacArthur Johnson scored on an 81-yard pass by quarterback Ted White.
``We were really out-of-sync in the first half,″ White said. ``In the second half we started playing different. The offensive line started picking up the blitz. ... I really have to take my hat off to them.″
White set four Heritage Bowl passing records with 23 completions, 39 attempts, 328 yards and his 81-yard touchdown pass. He also led the Bison in rushing with 60 yards on 10 attempts.
Southern lost for the first time in the Heritage Bowl, which it won in 1993 and 1995. The Jaguars had trouble maintaining their offensive drive in the second half with four interceptions thrown by quarterback Marcus Jacoby.
``Any time you make that many mistakes and have the opportunity to win at the end, it’s a learning experience,″ said Southern coach Pete Richardson. ``We’ve got to turn a negative into a positive and get back and get ready to play next year.″
Southern scored on its first possession when Guye returned Ruben Ruiz’s punt 72 yards for a touchdown 2:22 into the game.
Howard tied it with an 83-yard drive capped by Mike Richardson’s 5-yard TD run. The Bison took a 10-7 lead on their next possession when Decuir kicked a 33-yard field goal with 3:13 left in the first period.
Southern dominated the second period with two touchdowns by Steve Wofford and a 25-yard field goal by Carlos Leach while the Jaguar defense dominated the Bison.
Howard began its comeback in the third period when Richardon scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run.