It didn’t take Mike London long to deliver a signature win at Howard University.
The former Virginia coach pulled off one of the biggest upsets in college football history in his Bison debut. Howard’s 43-40 win over UNLV on Saturday night is believed to be the biggest outright win by a team according to the point spread.
The Bison, a Football Championship Subdivision school, was a 45-point underdog to the Rebels. According to Pregame.com, which supplies odds to The Associated Press, a $100 bet on Howard to win outright would have paid $55,000.
The previous largest upset was in 2007 when Stanford defeated USC as a 39-point underdog. That win also featured another first-year coach in Jim Harbaugh.
“We’re all ruled by the psychology of results. In terms of culture, perception and being competitive this is huge,” London told the AP in a phone interview. “To go on the road, cross country and play these guys toe to toe with their allotment of 80-plus scholarship guys and with my 57 plus is big.”
The pairing of London and Howard couldn’t come at a better time since both are looking for redemption. The Bison — who were picked ninth out of 11 teams in the preseason Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference poll, were 3-19 the past two seasons. They also have had only one winning season in 11 years (2012) and haven’t posted back-to-back winning seasons since 1998. Going into Saturday’s game, they had lost by an average of 38 points in their past seven games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
London led Richmond to an FCS title in 2009 but mostly struggled in his six seasons at Virginia (2010-15). The Cavaliers were 27-46 during London’s tenure.
They went 8-5 in 2011, including wins at Miami and Florida State, but couldn’t reach those same levels. London, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2011, was as assistant at Maryland last year before taking over at Howard.
“There have been a lot of people telling the program what they can’t do for a long time. We have been trying to instill a culture of all things being possible,” London said. “We were leading at halftime and the guys were resolute and committed to the game plan.”
Howard led 21-9 with less than six minutes remaining in the second quarter before UNLV scored 24 straight points. The Bison would eventually rally and take the lead for good on Caylin Newton’s 4-yard run with 7:34 remaining.
Newton, who is the younger brother of Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton, had a strong debut. The freshman ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns along with passing for 140 with a TD and interception.
“Last night he made a name for himself,” London said. “Caylin did a good job of running the offense and made some fantastic runs, often with guys hanging on him.”
Running back Anthony Philyaw, who is the preseason Offensive Player of the Year in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, rushed for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Bison don’t have much time to celebrate. They got back into Washington less than 12 hours after beating the Rebels and have to go on the road again next Saturday, this time to Kent State.
London said he had been up for 48 hours straight and was hoping the full magnitude of the win would set in after some sleep.
“To see guys looks in the locker room after the win really was overwhelming. Now we have to get back to work and fix some things,” he said. “We’ll put in the time to craft a game plan for Kent State after we get acclimated to being back on East coast time. We don’t have classes on Monday so that will be good.”