An overcast sky, with a few drops of rain, was the scene on Tuesday afternoon as the Bowie State football team held practice in preparation for another road game on Saturday.
The dreary weather on the back side of campus, just off Laurel-Bowie Road, was hopefully not an omen for the Bulldogs, who are coming off their first loss of the season and will play the second of six straight road games this coming weekend at Virginia State in Petersburg.
Bowie State, 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the CIAA, may be at a crossroads. The Bulldogs lost last Saturday, 32-29, at Virginia Union in a CIAA contest and Virginia State will be the second of four league games in a row away from Bowie.
"From here on out we have to win," said starting right tackle OgheneMaro Erhie, a 296-pound junior from Laurel High. "We need to play better on defense."
The normally stingy Bowie State defense gave up 523 yards of total offense to Virginia Union, including 354 through the air at Hovey Field in Richmond.
The Bulldogs' offense did even better, gaining 551 yards and scoring two touchdowns in the final quarter to make the game close. Leading the way was senior quarterback Clifton Budd, who threw for 247 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 141 more yards on 17 carries.
The arm and feet of Budd nearly pulled the game out for Bowie State. But head coach Damon Wilson, in his third season, likes Budd for more than natural ability.
"His athletic ability is great. But his best attribute is his mindset. He understands concepts as a quarterback," Wilson said before practice Tuesday.
Budd, from Silver Spring, is listed at 5-foot-10 but may be a little shorter than that. He was an all-around talent at Sherwood High in Montgomery County and saw action as a kick returner, running back and sometimes quarterback before graduating in 2008.
He said he looked into football programs at larger schools such as Rutgers, Cincinnati and Rhode Island but said his size worked against him as a possible quarterback at a higher level.
Budd landed at Bowie State, which is a Division II school. Last year as a junior he became the starting quarterback early in the season and in September 2010 set school records with 32 completions and 355 yards in a 28-27 win over Virginia Union. For his efforts he was named Heritage Sports Radio Network (HSRN) national Division II player of the week.
The Bulldogs lost in the CIAA title game in 2009 but failed to get back to the championship contest last year.
The defense is led by senior linebacker Delano Johnson, who is 6-foot-4 and played at Dunbar High in Baltimore. "He is a great player. He is a great vocal leader," Budd said of Johnson, who appears to be on the radar of NFL scouts.
Budd, between last year and in 2011, has now started a season's worth of games at quarterback under Wilson. "He is a great coach. He lets us go out and play," Budd said. And that is what the Bulldogs will have to do once again on the road Saturday if they hope to stay in the CIAA race.
Virginia State is 2-1 after a 35-20 win on Saturday over Chowan of North Carolina. Bowie High grad William Bailey, a junior defensive back, had one tackle Saturday for Bowie State. Another Bowie High grad on the roster is Steven Marks, a sophomore offensive lineman.