BOWIE -- For the second straight Saturday, Bowie Field turned into Heartbreak Hotel in the closing seconds, as Bowie State saw a 19-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate and unbeaten Virginia Union rallied for a 45-40 victory.
The Bulldogs (1-3 overall), who lost on the last play of last week's Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association game to Virginia State, fell on the last offensive play to the Panthers (5-0 and 3-0 in the CIAA) in this game.
But this loss, Bowie's third in three CIAA games, was devastating. Virginia Union, ranked No. 10 in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II poll, had trailed, 40-21, after a 61-yard touchdown run by Bowie's Phil Dyer had seemingly wrapped up the game for the home team with 8 minutes, 9 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
However, Virginia Union quarterback Carl Wright directed his team on scoring drives of 77 and 76 yards, and a pair of two-point conversion passes cut the Bowie lead to 40-37 with 2:26 left.
Then the Bowie offense, which had moved so consistently throughout the game under the direction of senior quarterback Don Janey -- in his first start of the season -- couldn't pick up a first down in the closing minutes to run out the clock.
"We just couldn't move the ball," said Janey, who got the start because of the shoulder injury suffered last week by junior Richard Thomas. "The last five minutes we needed a first down and couldn't pick it up."
The final Virginia Union drive started near midfield at its 47 with 1:24 to play, and Wright ended it when he connected with William Woods on a 43-yard pass against the Bowie prevent secondary with two seconds to go.
Wright, who completed 21 of 41 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns, lofted the winning pass into the front corner of the end zone where three Panthers receivers and three Bowie defenders battled for the ball. When the ball deflected off a Bowie hand, Woods pulled it in and fell to the ground.
"I just threw it up and he made the great play," Wright said. "This was the most thrilling game I've ever been in."
For Bowie, the empty feeling of defeat was immense. "It's the most disappointing loss I've ever had," said offensive coordinator Harry Lentz. Bowie struck for 21 first-quarter points, as Janey connected with Tony Harrison for an 83-yard scoring pass and then ran back a punt for a 40-yard touchdown. Janey keyed the next scoring drive with a 37-yard run that culminated with a 6-yard touchdown run from Jonathan Person, giving Bowie a 21-7 lead with 3:24 still left in the opening quarter.
"We came out flat and Bowie State came out with spirit," Wright said. "They were definitely the better team in the first half."