BOWIE -- American International quickly has learned to dread its visits to Bowie State.
In 1988, the Bulldogs' Cinderella trip to the NCAA Division II playoffs was made possible by a last-minute victory over AIC in the first meeting between the schools. Bowie State (3-5) will watch the 1991 postseason from the sidelines, but yesterday it posted another comeback win over the Yellow Jackets (3-3-1) from Springfield, Mass., this time by 20-17.
Bowie State's offense was ineffective for all but a handful of series in the first 54 minutes, but the Bulldogs drove 90 yards in nine plays for the winning touchdown, the final 36 yards coming on a pass from senior quarterback Jason Herold to Tom Butz with 2:51 remaining.
AIC drove through Bowie State's prevent defense to the Bulldogs' 11-yard line with seven seconds remaining, when coach Alex Rotsko disdained a possible tying field goal. Sophomore defensive end Tracy Ledbetter secured the outcome with his sack of Tony Ragone, allowing Bowie State, playing at home for the first time since Sept. 14, to break a four-game losing streak.
"With all the disappointments we've had, that's a great way to finish homecoming," said Butz, a junior from Brooklyn Park who wasn't the intended receiver on the decisive touchdown. "I was supposed to run a slant, but I made the read and turned it into a post. In that situation, I just try to establish position and out-jump the defensive back. They're usually smaller than me."
Butz, who's 6 feet 3, outleaped Leroy Gibson and Raymond Berry, both 5-9, to catch Herold's heave on the goal line. Three minutes earlier, the same combination kept the last-ditch drive alive, with a 13-yard completion on a third-and-11 play from the Bulldogs' 9.
Butz had four catches for 102 yards, giving him 20 for 333 this season. He set up Bowie State's first touchdown with a 28-yard catch, bringing down another jump-ball toss from Herold at the Yellow Jackets' 2. Butch Wilson went in from the 1 two plays later for a 6-0 lead with 1:07 left in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs' offense went into a funk until that final winning drive.
Bowie State ran 11 offensive plays in the second quarter, nine in the third.
The Bowie State defense made it 13-0 with 5:12 left in the second quarter, as sophomore Gary Beckford returned his third interception of the year 55 yards for a touchdown. Ragone and the Yellow Jackets immediately settled down, moving 73 yards in 11 plays to cut the halftime lead to 13-7.
American International drove 67 yards after the second-half kickoff before settling for a 24-yard field goal by Adam Hallet. The Yellow Jackets went ahead on their next possession with some trickery, as Ragone sent a tailback into the line, got a pitch back, and found a wide-open Anthony Wesselhoft for a 39-yard touchdown.