WASHINGTON, DC – The most prolific quarter in AT&T Nation’s Football Classic® history made sure the championship trophy will return to southeastern Virginia
After a sluggish first half, the Hampton Pirates emerged from the locker room in dominant fashion helped by special teams play. Bruce Perry returned a partially blocked punt 27 yards for one touchdown and Ronald Bell’s 41-yard punt return set up another score as the Pirates repeated as AT&T Nation’s Football Classic champions with a 34-7 victory over the rival Howard Bison on a beautiful Saturday afternoon before 13,068 at RFK Stadium
In all, Hampton scored 24 points in the third quarter – more than any team had ever scored in a half in the Classic and more than the Pirates had scored in either of their first two games this season. It was the most lopsided game in the “Battle for the Real HU” since a 37-0 Hampton victory in 2009.
“We didn’t really make any adjustments” at halftime, Hampton Coach Connell Maynor said. “We just played a little more solid and stopped shooting ourselves in the foot.”
While Hampton was flagged for a Classic-record 14 penalties for 155 yards, the Pirates were able to turn the game into a rout thanks to key contributions from several players. Running back Yahkee Johnson was named the Classic’s Most Valuable Player after rushing eight times for 56 yards and catching two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.
Quarterback Jaylian Williamson completed 8 of 15 passes for 198 yards and one touchdown, while linebacker Chaka Diarrassouba led the defense with seven tackles.
“It was all around – defense, offense and special teams in the second half that got us going,” Maynor said.
Each team entered Saturday’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener 0-2 after challenging opening schedules. The first half was nearly a draw as Howard squandered a chance to score first after driving to the Hampton 2-yard line. A 15-yard personal foul penalty followed by a sack by Darius Commissiong left Howard with a long field goal attempt that was no good.
Hampton was backed up on the ensuing drive, but a 72-yard pass from Williamson to Jack Willenbrock – matching the longest pass play in Classic history -- changed that. A few plays later, on fourth-and-goal from the 1, running back Eric Carter Jr. scooted in behind the left side of the offensive line for a 7-0 lead and it stayed that score until halftime.
But then Hampton took the second half kickoff and, aided by Rashawn Proctor’s 39-yard return, drove into scoring position. Anthony Prevost’s 31-yard field goal made it 10-0.
Two holding penalties and a fumble spoiled Howard’s following drive, then things got ugly for the Bison. Damon Woodcock blocked the ensuing punt and Perry snagged the ball out of the air and raced for the touchdown and a 17-0 lead midway through the quarter.
Brandon Cox’s two-yard quarterback keeper made it 24-0. Howard’s next possession ended in another punt, which Bell fielded and weaved across the field for the second-longest punt return in Classic history. On the following play, Johnson took Williamson’s screen pass to the right and worked his way across the field for a 29-yard touchdown and a 31-0 lead.
Adam Brown’s 34-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter made it 34-0.
Howard avoided the shutout as Anthony Philyaw eluded several tacklers for a 3-yard touchdown run with 13 seconds left.
The game was the focal point of four days of educational and entertaining events that included Technoir Innovator’s Classic; The Game Before the Game student debate; and the Diversity in Sports Forum: Pathways Into the Industry.
Gameday at the stadium kicked off with the Pepsi Block Party that included The Real HU DJ Battle and appearances by Terrence J and Doug. E. Fresh.
Prior to kickoff, two-time Grammy Award nominee and Howard University graduate Eric Roberson performed “Lift Every Voice.” Following the presentation of colors by the United States Marine Corps 4th Engineer Battalion from Baltimore, the United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps played the national anthem.
The halftime show featured Ricky Smiley introducing the Howard University Showtime and Hampton University Marching Force in a Battle of the Bands.