But the Bison sure looked comfortable Saturday night. They forced three turnovers, including a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown that gave them a double-digit first half lead. They didn’t go away, even after UNLV scored 24 straight points to take a 33-21 second-half lead. And they rode Newton during a back-and-forth second half.
The 5-foot-11 quarterback carried the ball 21 times for 190 yards and two touchdowns, threw for 140 yards and a touchdown, and converted a two-point conversion early in the fourth quarter to give Howard a 36-33 lead. UNLV went back ahead with a Lexington Thomas touchdown, but Newton scored midway through the final period, the game’s last points.
The Bison, an FCS team from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, entered as 45-point road underdogs against UNLV and stunned the Rebels 43-40 in Las Vegas. UNLV paid Howard $600,000 for the appearance.
Howard’s win comes a day after the 10-year anniversary of Appalachian State‘s upset of Michigan in Ann Arbor. No point spread was archived on the game between the Wolverines and the Mountaineers, who at the time played in Division I-AA.
In the same season, Stanford upset USC as a 39-point underdog.
Las Vegas sportsbooks, in the past, did not offer betting on some games featuring FBS versus FCS competition. But as the sports betting market has grown, books have increased their menus and now offer odds on more obscure games. It’s led to an increased number of matchups with giant point spreads.
Since 2005, there have been 254 games featuring point spreads of 40 or greater, according to sports betting database BetLabSports.com. Before Saturday, 40-plus-point favorites were 253-0 straight-up.
Howard was not the only massive FCS underdog to pull off a stunner Saturday. Liberty, a 33-point road underdog, outlasted Baylor 48-43.
Howard quarterback Caylin Newton, the younger brother of Carolina Panthersstar Cam Newton, accounted for 330 total offensive yards and three touchdowns to lead the upset Saturday in the debut for new Bison coach Mike London. Newton had 21 carries for 190 yards and two scores and passed for 140 and a score.
Howard raced to a 21-9 lead when linebacker Devin Rollins returned a fumble for a 75-yard score midway through the second quarter. The Rebels responded by reeling off 24 consecutive points and led 33-21 after Charles Williams plunged in from a yard out with 6:45 left in the third.
Anthony Philyaw scored touchdown runs of 3 and 11 yards to put the Bison back up 34-33. Lexington Thomas scored for UNLV for a 40-36 lead, and Newton concluded the scoring with a 4-yard run with 7:34 left to play.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound quarterback threw for 3,322 yards with 33 touchdowns and eight interceptions this past season playing for Grady High School in Atlanta. He ran for 1,036 yards on 92 carries with 13 touchdowns. His highlights show the escapability and open-field running reminiscent of his much bigger big bro, Cam, who dabs for the Carolina Panthers.
But those numbers and that last name weren’t enough to get the younger Newton a slew of Division I offers. While his brother’s alma mater Auburn showed some interest, no official offer came. His only other offers were from Hampton University, Kentucky Christian University, Texas Southern University and Savannah State University.
“The [recruiting] process started before the season. “Caylin’s father [Cecil Newton Sr.] wanted something different for him. He could have gone anywhere in the country, and they could have paid his tuition anywhere. But they wanted an HBCU [historically black college or university], and they figured if it’s going to be an HBCU, why not the school that is considered to be the highest of all HBCUs.”
Having been down the recruitment road before with Cam, who was drafted as the first overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL draft, the Newtons wanted no parts of a drawn-out process.
Howard was a great institution before we got here. We’re all on board – Cam, my oldest son, Cecil Jr., the whole family. We’re all in this together.”“We’re happy to be Bisons,” Cecil Newton Sr.“
Football alone was not the only factor that made this decision easy, Newton Sr. noted. “It was a combination of campus culture, strong academics, as well as an opportunity to play football,” said Newton Sr., an alumnus of Savannah State. He said Caylin is undecided on his major but hopes to enroll in Howard’s School of Business.
Try as they might, it won’t be easy to ignore comparisons to his big brother. But the Newtons have been dealing with that chatter for years.
“Obviously, Cam is 6-5 and Caylin is 5-11, but the skill sets are quite similar. Caylin can do everything Cam can do, maybe even a tad better, in high school,” Newton Sr. said. “But we wanted a very simplified process for him to choose a school, and we felt Caylin needed a more enriched college experience that’s going to catapult him beyond football.”
CONGRATULATIONS TO HOWARD UNIVERSITY AND CAYLIN NEWTON.