October 31, 2015
By David Driver
For the Savannah Morning News, Georgia
Used with permission
WASHINGTON, D.C. Junior Leon Prunty made his first start of the year at quarterback here on Saturday afternoon for Savannah State, but most of the problems for the Tigers was the opposing quarterback, as Howard sophomore Kalen Johnson threw a career-high four touchdowns and ran for another in a 55-9 romp over SSU in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference contest on a dry, picture-perfect day for football.
It was the first win of the season for the Bison (1-7, 1-5 MEAC), who had been outscored 96-7 in the first quarter this season before taking a 20-0 lead against SSU. The Tigers are now 0-9 lifetime against Howard, who used the Wildcat offense for the first time this season and led 34-9 at halftime before a scant crowd of 1,056.
"It is not like (the Wildcat) overwhelmed us. We have a young, freshmen (defensive backfield) group. We have four freshmen DBs," said SSU head coach Earnest Wilson III. "We just have to get better. It is all about us."
SSU junior linebacker Marquis Smith (five tackles), a Maryland product playing in front of 20 to 25 family friends, said the defense could have been better prepared.
"You have to coach them up," Smith, a graduate of Lackey High in southern Maryland, said of the young defensive backs.
One of the few highlights for SSU (1-6, 1-4 MEAC) was the first passing touchdown of the season a 34-yard completion from Prunty to freshman Rashad Saxton with 4:26 left in the second quarter that cut the deficit to 27-9. It was also the first catch in the college career for Saxton, who also ran the ball three times for 57 yards.
"I came into the game expecting to win," Prunty said." I was doing my job, trying to execute the plays. I have been running the first team (offense) since Tuesday of last week."
Coach Wilson said Prunty was at a disadvantage since he missed the first four games of the year.
"It is kind of hard; everyone else is running at full speed. He has to make sure everything is right in his personal life," Wilson said of Prunty.
Prunty, suspended for the first four games this year, appeared in his third game of 2015 and completed 11 of 29 passes for 113 yards with two interceptions. Junior Arshon Spaulding Jr., took over at quarterback for the Tigers early in the third quarter, though Prunty later returned.
The Tigers fell behind 20-0 with 43 seconds left in the first quarter on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Ricquaz Brannon, who also ran for 66 yards.
The Bison took a 13-0 lead with 5:22 left in the first quarter on a 47-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to a wide-open Myles Williams.
Howard went 93 yards on its first drive, which was capped by a 6-yard touchdown run by freshman Guy Lemonier. The Bison led 7-0 after the PAT following its longest drive of the year.
SSU finally got on the board with John Barron's 30-yard field goal with 11:29 left in the first half to make it 20-3.
A Howard punt hit Darrell Bonner of SSU in the back midway through the second quarter and Howard recovered at the Tigers 42. Seconds later, Robert Mercer caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Johnson and the PAT made it 27-3.
Another TD pass by Johnson, to Matt Colvin (four catches), gave the Bison a 34-9 lead with 2:34 left in the first half. Johnson completed 14 of 20 passes for 219 yards.
The game was scoreless in the second half until Howard's Travon Hunt scored on a 31-yard fumble return to give the Bison a 41-9 advantage with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.
Johnson's 1-yard run and PAT with 9:44 left in the fourth quarter made it 48-9. Howard's Kenneth Russ had a touchdown on an 11-yard interception return with 9:31 left to account for the final margin.
Another problem for SSU was penalties, as the Tigers made seven in the first half and 15 overall for 142 yards.
"I don't like the personal foul penalties," Wilson. "I thought we took a step back in that area."