Lions taste bitter defeat as safety gives away game

September 06, 1992|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

This is no way to start a winning season.

The Howard Lions had hoped to move in that direction when they opened their football season at home against Parkville Friday night. The Lions were counting on a victory as the first building block toward sixth-year coach John Quinn's first winning season.

Instead, the Lions tasted a 16-15 defeat that was as bitter as a one-point setback possibly can be.

Imagine losing a game like this: You fall behind by two touchdowns early, you recover with an inspired, two-touchdown comeback to take a one-point lead at halftime. Then, you trade penalties and turnovers with your opponents during a forgettable scoreless second half.

Finally, you have a 15-14 lead and the ball deep in your own territory with just over a minute to play. Your opponent is out of timeouts. How can you lose?

Here's how the Lions did it. On third-and-22 from his 8-yard line and with 1:15 left in the game, Howard senior quarterback Brad Stubbs dropped back to pass, rolled to his right to evade a Parkville pass rusher, then dropped back further into the end zone.

From there, just as a Parkville lineman was about to hit him, Stubbs heaved a pass downfield that landed some 10 yards from the nearest Howard receiver.

Penalty flags flew. For several minutes, confusion reigned. And when the penalty -- intentional grounding -- was announced, Parkville had scored a safety, and Howard had lost the lead and the game. A team automatically is awarded a safety if the opposing quarterback commits intentional grounding from his own end zone.

"We were hoping to throw a safe pass to give us more room to punt, since their [Parkville's] cornerbacks were playing so far back," said Quinn, who fumed as the Lions trotted off the field dejectedly. "But they [the officials] called intentional grounding on Stubbs on a very bogus play."

Quinn then immediately second-guessed himself for trying a pass play in such a situation. With the score and the clock on its side, Howard probably could have run off precious time with a safer running play. Even if they didn't pick up a first down, the Lions would have needed a successful punt to virtually ensure the victory.

"I was an idiot for trying it [the pass]. If I had to do it over again, I would've tried something else," Quinn said. "But we had our opportunities. We should have put them away four times."

The Lions seemed ready to pull away from the Knights after intermission, what with the second-quarter show the Lions staged for the Howard faithful. After falling behind, 14-0, in the first quarter, Howard came to life behind Stubbs and running backs Kirk Wise and Curtis McTavish.

On the opening drive of the second period, the Lions moved 15 yards to the Parkville 38, only to lose 12 yards on successive running plays. But on third-and-long, Stubbs flipped a pass in the right to Wise, who danced through several tacklers and picked ** up 24 yards and a first down at the Parkville 26. Four plays later, Wise scored from the 1. The Lions then converted a two-point pass to pull to within 14-8.

Howard's next drive was even more impressive, as Stubbs hit six straight passes to overcome two clipping penalties and drive the Lions to the go-ahead score.

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