Morgan State ruins N.C. Central homecoming
When N.C. Central interim coach Dwayne Foster led his Eagles out of the locker room Saturday before a 34-22 loss to Morgan State, all of them were walking together in a unified flock.
The look projected a focused resolve, suggesting that the Eagles were putting both the Bears and the sellout homecoming crowd on notice that things would be different than what they were the game prior when S.C. State embarrassed NCCU on the same field on national TV.
It was a good look, but Morgan State, just like S.C. State, commenced to running the ball down NCCU’s throat.
The Bears (2-5, 2-1 MEAC) jumped on the Eagles (3-4, 1-2 MEAC) and built a 21-0 first quarter lead. Getting to the other side of that mountain would take some doing, Foster said.
“It makes it tough. You can’t play from behind throughout football games. We have to start better,” Foster said. “We certainly can’t win football games being in a hole like that and trying to get going late. We certainly have to start better in order to put ourselves in a better situation to win football games.”
The Bears ran for touchdowns on their first two possessions.
NCCU’s first two drives ended with turnovers.
The Bears’ third possession wrapped up with flair, the first quarter expiring on an acrobatic touchdown catch by Morgan State’s Grayling Harrison.
Morgan State kicked off to start the second quarter, and NCCU’s Phillip Barren ripped off 61 yards of real estate to give the Eagles a short field at the Morgan State 31. NCCU quarterback Jordan Reid scored on a 9-yard run.
NCCU began to come alive, getting a 41-yard field goal from Oleg Parent to chip away at Morgan State’s lead.
In the second half, Morgan State had to go with backup quarterback Robert Council. Starter Seth Higgins went down with a shoulder bruise late in the first half, Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said.
Higgins (6-5, 230) is big and mobile, running for 55 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game.
Council (6-4, 215) was a load, too, rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown.
Morgan State quarterback Moses Skillon (6-5, 210) is another big Bear who lined up under center, pulling some reserve duty in the second half.
The Bears sustained a long drive in the third quarter after Paul Eatman intercepted Jordan Reid’s pass in the end zone. Morgan State hung onto the ball for 6:04 before punting.
NCCU gave it right back. Eagles’ running back Idreis Augustus fumbled on the Eagles’ first play from scrimmage in the second half. Morgan State recovered on NCCU’s 17-yard line and got a field goal out of the deal to put the Bears ahead 27-10.
Four turnovers hurt NCCU. Reid threw two interceptions and the Eagles lost two fumbles.
Morgan State never lost the ball.
Penalties never are good, especially when they cost a team 115 yards. That was NCCU’s story.
“Can’t have penalties and win football games,” Foster said.
Down 17 at the start of the fourth quarter, NCCU watched Council add to the pain with his 4-yard touchdown run.
NCCU’s special teams have made dramatic plays all season and came up with another one when Adrian Wilkins returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown.
“Adrian is special when he gets the ball back there,” Foster said. “It doesn’t take much. When we get hats on hats, he’s able to do some special things.”
Special teams allowed NCCU to get back into the game, Hill-Eley said.
“As we expected, they were great on special teams,” Hill-Eley said.
NCCU outscored Morgan State 12-10 in the second half.
“It certainly wasn’t enough,” Foster said. “We’ve got to find better ways to move the ball and get some points on the board, no doubt about that.”
NCCU’s running game, again, wasn’t hitting on much, generating just 44 yards for the entire game.
Morgan State ran for 288 yards and passed for 97 yards.
Reid and NCCU backup quarterback Malcolm Bell combined for 202 passing yards.
Bell threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to DeMario Johnson late in the fourth quarter.
“It was a little spurt,” NCCU wide receiver Lamar Scruggs said.
But the Eagles fouled up the routine extra-point attempt. That’s how rough it was out there for the home team, which may have seen its shot at a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship disappear.
Foster said NCCU, win or lose, abides by a 24-hour protocol. Whether a game goes the Eagles’ way or not, it has to be out of their system in day’s time, he said.
“We’re going to get back to work. That’s all we can do,” Foster said.
Scrugg’s, a redshirt senior, gave the 11,763 fans who came to see this one a good show, leading all receivers with 92 yards on seven catches. He said he’s abiding by the 24-hour policy.
“As a football player, man, it’s very tough,” Scruggs said. “But you’ve got to have a short-term memory. This is definitely a tough loss. My last homecoming.”
|MORGAN ST. 34, NC CENTRAL 22|
Morg—Brown 6 run (Moller kick), 10:25.
Morg—Higgins 11 run (Moller kick), 5:38.
Morg—Harrison 27 pass from Higgins (Moller kick), :00.
NCCe—Reid 9 run (Parent kick), 14:17.
NCCe—FG Parent 41, 9:29.
Morg—FG Moller 22, :30.
Morg—FG Moller 26, 3:19.
Morg—Council 4 run (Moller kick), 10:45.
NCCe—Wilkins 91 kickoff return (run failed), 10:29.
NCCe—D.Johnson 5 pass from Bell (pass failed), 4:22.
|Time of Possession||41:01||18:48|
RUSHING—Morgan St., Brown 27-98, Walker 13-74, Council 11-58,
Higgins 9-55, Skillon 1-5, Fisk 1-(minus 1), Team 2-(minus 1).
NC Central, Augustus 6-24, K.Thompson 1-11, Wright 1-8, Swinson 2-7,
Reid 8-3, Team 1-(minus 2), Bell 1-(minus 7).
PASSING—Morgan St., Higgins 5-8-0-72, Council 2-3-0-25,
Skillon 0-2-0-0. NC Central, Reid 12-22-2-124, Bell 6-12-0-78.
RECEIVING—Morgan St., Harrison 2-39, Th.Martin 2-24,
Jefferson 1-17, Spearman 1-9, Ingram 1-8. NC Central, L.Scruggs 7-92,
Wilkins 4-31, Swinson 3-47, Wright 2-21, D.Johnson 2-11.