Washington, D.C. (Nov. 17, 2012) --- Delaware State led by 21 points early in the third quarter but was outscored 38-10 the rest of the way in a 41-34 loss to Howard in the season finale at Greene Stadium this afternoon.
The Hornets advanced to the Bison 35 on their final possession, but quarterback Nick Elko's pass to Travis Tarpley was intercepted with 1:26 left to play. Howard was able to run out the remaining time. The Bison scored 35 unanswered points after falling behind 24-3 in the third quarter.
Delaware State ends the 2012 season with an overall record of 6-5 and a 5-3 mark in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Hornets, picked to finish 10th in the 2012 MEAC preseason poll, posted a three-win improvement from their 2011 record. DSU's three MEAC losses were by a combined 12 points.
DSU committed a season-high four turnovers in the contest, resulting in 21 points for the Bison.
Keyed by two Nick Elko to Justin Wilson touchdown passes (32, 3) in the second quarter, Delaware State led 17-3 at the half.
On the first possession of the second half, the Bison gained 68 yards to the Delaware State 30. Hornet cornerback Nick Williams ended the drive when he intercepted a pass by Howard's Greg McGhee, returning it 79 yards for a touchdown to give DSU a 24-3 lead with 11:44 left in the third quarter. It was the third interception in the last three games for Williams, and DSU's second interception return for a touchdown this season.
Howard began its comeback on the ensuing possession. Terrence Lefall capped off a six-play, 59-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown run to cut the Hornets' lead to 24-10 with 10:00 left in the third quarter. Lefall rushed for a career-high 253 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
The Bison took advantage of a Delaware State turnover to pull closer.
Three plays after Elko lost a fumble on a sack, McGhee connected with Matthew Colvin on a 20-yard scoring pass to pull the Bison to within 24-17 with 8:12 remaining in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, Delaware State's Josh Bailey had a 29-yard return before fumbling the ball. Howard's James Williams recovered the ball at the DSU 45.
Eight plays later, McGhee hooked up with Stewart Hartman on a five-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal for the Bison. John Fleck's extra point tied the game at 24-24 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
After Delaware State failed to score on its next possession, Howard used a long drive to take the lead for the first time. The Bison marched 80 yards on 11 plays, capped off by a three yard touchdown run by LeFall, to take a 31-24 lead with 14:39 left to play.
Another Delaware State turnover on the ensuing possession was returned for a touchdown to give the Bison a double-digit lead.
Elko connected with Bailey on a 15-yard pass play, but Howard's Ademol Olatunji forced a fumble on the run. Keith Pough recovered the ball for the Bison, returning it 36 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 38-24 lead.
Delaware State capitalized on a Howard turnover to stop the Bison run and pull closer.
The Hornets recovered a muffed punt return by Howard's Brandon Flanagan with 13:07 left in the fourth quarter. DSU needed just two plays to convert the turnover to points. Elko connected with Travis Tarpley on a three-yard touchdown pass with 12:43 left to play. Mitchell Ward's extra point kick cut the Bison lead to 38-31.
Fleck booted a 37-yard field goal to stretch Howard's lead to 41-31 with 4:18 left.
On the ensuing Delaware State possession, the Hornets advanced to the Howard three yard line, but had to settle for a field goal. Ward's 20-yard field goal pulled the Hornets to within 41-38 with 2:02 left to play.
Delaware State successfully pulled off an onsides kick to regain possession of the ball seven seconds later.
On the third play after the recovery, Elko completed a 23-yard pass to Justin Brewton to the Howard 35. Two plays later, Elko's pass to Tarpley was intercepted by Olatunji to end the Hornet threat.
The loss overshadowed a record-setting day for Tarpley, who had 12 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. He established a new a Hornet record with 1,058 receiving yards this season. The previous record of 1,049 was set by David Jones in 1990.
Tarpley ended his DSU career with 181 receptions for 2,121 yards. He ranks third in team history in receptions and fifth in receiving yards.
Wilson had eight catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns in his last Hornet contest. He is second all-time in receptions (189) and fourth in receiving yards (2,416) at DSU.
Elko, also playing in his last game at Delaware State, completed 30 of 49 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns. He set a new team record with 2,828 passing yards this season. Elko also established a new Hornet record with 259 completions this year. He finishes his DSU career with 540 completions for 5,748 yards to rank second in completions and third all-time in passing yards.
Linebacker Ernest Adjei led the Hornets with 13 tackles in the contest, including eight solo stops. DSU Lineman Rodney Gunter had 10 tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage.