Freshman receiver Howard shines against Boston College
Johnathan “Bug” Howard’s grandmother doesn’t typically watch football willfully — at least that’s what Howard thought.
It’s not her style.
But when the freshman wide receiver went home for the first time this school year and visited the woman who gave him his nickname 12 years ago, he learned that his performance on the North Carolina football team had convinced his role model to give it another shot.
Saturday was no exception.
Howard came up with two touchdowns in UNC’s (2-5, 1-3 ACC) 34-10 rout of Boston College (3-4, 1-3 ACC),to double his number of career touchdowns.
“It feels good giving honor to the coaches for giving me the opportunity to go out and make plays,” he said after the victory.
“That’s what they expect me to do, and that’s just what I gotta do. That’s my job.”
The first came from senior quarterback Bryn Renner with 52 seconds remaining in the first half, when Howard wrapped his hands around a 10-yard pass to give the Tar Heels a 20-7 lead heading into the locker room.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams launched the 17-yard pass that would become Howard’s second with 19 seconds left in the third quarter for the 27-7 advantage.
With Howard’s help, the Tar Heels snapped a four-game losing streak that dated back to Sept. 21 and claimed their first conference win after falling to Miami Oct. 17.
“Much different feeling in that locker room tonight — a much needed win,” coach Larry Fedora said in his opening remarks.
“We played not error-free football, but we played with a lot less mistakes than we have in our previous games and it showed up tonight.”
Renner credited Howard for playing a large role in UNC’s breakdown of Boston College’s No. 3 ranked ACC redzone defense.
“We had success. I think we were four-for-four,” he said.
“We put more emphasis on it this week. Bug made two great catches.”
Williams, who threw what would become Howard’s first career touchdown reception in UNC’s 40-20 win against Middle Tennessee State, said that he and the freshman receiver have a special relationship that benefits them on the field.
“That’s my little man,” said Williams as he began to light up. Williams led all UNC rushers with 55 yards and racked up two touchdowns of his own.
“I love throwing the ball to Bug. He’s one guy — he’s not gonna let me down. He might miss one, but he won’t miss another one.”
At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, Howard’s lanky frame allows him to often catch passes over top of defenders, which gives Williams more freedom with the pass.
“He’s grown a lot. You can tell he’s finally getting some muscle on him,” Williams said.
“He came in looking like a stick but other than that, he’s doing wonderful, man.”
Howard echoed Williams’ thoughts on their friendship, adding that it’s a natural chemistry when they always know what the other expects.
“Me and ‘Quise got a special relationship,” Howard said.
“He knows my style, I know his style. That connection with that quarterback — it’s great. And we should have it over the next couple of years.”