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Mission impossible: Howard campus and students celebrate victory over UNLV

Bison would pull off the biggest point-spread upset in college football history

“We’re here to win on the field, to win off the field, and we’re going to win in the community,” Howard head football coach Mike London said to his new team back in January. “The old days and old ways are now the new days and the new ways.”

Those words would resonate in Las Vegas on Saturday night as the Bison pulled off the biggest point-spread upset in college football history on the road against the UNLV Rebels, winning 43-40 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Although it was only the first game of the season, for the Howard community the victory felt almost like a championship win.

According to HU Bison Sports, with Howard’s first season-opening win in more than a decade, the team also earned its first victory over an FBS opponent in program history on Saturday. After leaving Las Vegas at midnight to head back to Washington, D.C., London and the team made their first stop Sunday morning at Cramton Auditorium to thank the Howard community.

“It’s a great group of young men right here,” said London. “We want to be great students, we want to be great to the community, we want to be great on the football field to bring you guys honor and integrity.”

For freshman defensive ends Tyree Leonard and James Newell, the opportunity to play their collegiate debut on the road in Las Vegas was both exciting and humbling.

“With making history, that’s something very positive for this team and this university because we was like, ‘Nobody is going to believe in us,’ ” said Leonard, a sports medicine major from Jonesboro, Georgia. “To be able to be the first person in my family to go to Vegas, that’s like a real honor. I’m really thankful we had the opportunity to go and play UNLV.

“I’m sorry we had to beat them, but not sorry. We had to take the W. … We didn’t go out there for nothing else.”

“I believed in Coach London, in what he said. What he said he was going to do for this team and all the work that we put in every morning,” said Newell, a sports medicine major from Akron, Ohio. “I knew that it would pay off eventually.”

Students on campus were also thrilled that the win has given the fans and the team new hope in a football program that has struggled in the previous two seasons, compiling a 3-19 record. There is also hope that stands will now be filled to capacity, as Howard is set to play its first home game against Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 23 at Greene Stadium.

“When I saw that we won our first game, it was pretty exciting,” said Lyric Fox, a freshman journalism major from Pittsburg, California, who attended the game as a member of the band. “It was a pretty cool experience to see them play for the first time, and I hope they can keep it up.”

“It’s a great day to be a Bison,” said Brandon Oliver, a junior public relations major from Oakland, California. “This win is a reflection of how hard the team has worked this summer and how much work they’ve put in. They’ve been hungry. They really wanted to show people what they can do and wanted to prove everyone wrong.

“Everyone [on the team] needs to be on their A-game. We’re off to a great start, and we just have to keep up the momentum.”

Although Howard earned a victory that is sure to be remembered, the season has just begun, as the Bison prepare for their next nonconference game on Sept. 9 against Kent State in Ohio. Nonetheless, not a bad 2017 debut for London and the players.


Paul Holston journalism major from Summerville, SC. He attends Howard University and served as 2016-17 editor-in-chief of The Hilltop.