WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Terrence Leffall helped run Howard back to respectability. He's not done carrying the Bison just yet.
The senior running back bulled his way for 182 yards and two touchdowns as Howard clinched its first winning season in eight years with a 20-10 victory over rival Hampton on Saturday.
"I felt like we had a great game plan and toward the end of the game, we just kept pounding the rock," Leffall said. "They trusted me to hold on to the ball and carry the team to victory."
With two games remaining, the Bison (6-3, 5-2 MEAC) will finish over .500 for the first time since going 6-5 in 2004.
Second-year coach Gary Harrell was brought in to restore some luster to his alma mater, and the victory marks another milestone in the program's makeover.
"It's no doubt about it that having a winning season at this point is huge," he said. "But we have to make sure we finish. Our goal now is 8-3. After we accomplish one goal, we want to reach out to another goal and keep climbing."
Leffall helped put the game on ice in the fourth quarter, when Howard put together a 12-play, 72-yard drive featuring heavy doses of the senior back. Last season against Hampton, Leffall carried a school-record 42 times, and the Bison did little to change the formula Saturday.
"We pretty much looked at last year's film," Harrell said. "Why change it if it's not broke?"
Leffall's 8-yard burst up the middle with a little more than 12 minutes remaining proved to be the decisive score. Leffall has reached the 100-yard plateau in all seven of his games this season.
Down by 10 entering the second half, the Pirates (2-6, 2-4) made things interesting, as quarterback Brian Swain scampered untouched for a 33-yard touchdown to make it 13-10.
"I had been waiting to get my chance," said Swain, who accounted for 191 total yards, including 105 on the ground. "But I missed a lot of open throws, and I need to stay in the pocket more and trust my receivers."
Hampton drove for another scoring opportunity, but a bad snap on a 45-yard field goal try foiled the potential tying score.
Hampton got off to a quick start, taking the opening kickoff and embarking on a nice drive behind Swain, who was making his college debut.
But the drive stalled after a fumbled pitch and the Pirates' 45-yard field-goal attempt into a stiff wind was nowhere close.
In a matchup of strength vs. strength, Howard's conference-leading rushing attack took a while to get rolling against Hampton's top-ranked rushing defense.
But the Bison churned its way along the ground to open the scoring, using an 11-play, 74-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead on a 6-yard scoring run by quarterback Randy Liggins Jr.
The Pirates have had trouble holding on to the ball all season, and fumbles plagued them again in the first half. Freshman quarterback Jaylian Williamson fumbled on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter.
After the first Hampton miscue, the Bison couldn't capitalize, as John Fleck missed a 25-yard field goal.
Only three plays later, however, Williamson was stripped of the ball by Howard's Damon Gresham-Chisholm and the Bison were in business. This time, they took advantage on Leffall's 18-yard touchdown run that gave Howard a 13-0 lead.
"We have to do better than that," Hampton coach Donovan Rose said. "I don't want to put that all on youth, but we have to do a better job with the ball. At any level or league, if you turn the ball over, you're going to have a less likely chance of winning."
On the final play of the first half, Taurean Durham's 22-yard field goal sliced the deficit to 13-3.
Notes: Both teams were weakened by injuries to key players. Howard's All-American linebacker Keith Pough tried to play through a severely sprained ankle he sustained two weeks ago against Morgan State, but played only one series before leaving. Hampton's Jeremi Schwartz, the MEAC's leading rusher, did not play with a hamstring injury, and quarterback Travis Champion missed the game because of a concussion. ... Hampton has fumbled 26 times this season, losing 12 of them. ... After losing 14 straight in the series, Howard has now won back-to-back games against the Pirates. ... Former NBA star Allen Iverson, a native of Hampton, Va., was in attendance.