It might not have made up for a collective career of frustration, but 19 Morgan State seniors will remember fondly their last college football game. In the final analysis, they were the ones who won this one.
There were a few anxious moments until senior Mike Andrews, who earlier had missed an extra-point try and a 46-yard field-goal attempt and had two punts blocked, kicked a 27-yard field goal with 1 minute, 51 seconds left.
The points were enough to ensure a 37-28 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory and thwart visiting Howard, which had rallied from a 34-0 deficit to score four straight touchdowns, closing the gap to 34-28, with 3:41 gone in the fourth quarter.
The victory ended a 10-game losing streak and marked the third year in a row in which the Bears have won the last game of the season.
Morgan State (1-10, 1-5) had been the epitome of frustration and humiliation through its first 10 games of the season. With an all-senior lineup (except sophomore quarterback Orlando Persell), it took out all its vengeance on archrival Howard (2-8, 1-5), handing the Bison its eighth straight loss.
In the process, the Bears, under the guidance of Persell, scored the most points of their Division I-AA history (it has been a member since 1983) and the most against anybody since beating Bowie State, 44-6, in 1982.
A Hughes Stadium crowd of 3,029 -- which grew larger after halftime, almost as though people heard the halftime score and had to see it for themselves -- watched Morgan State compress a season of offense into the first 12 minutes of action, building a 21-0 margin on its first three possessions.
Senior Nathan Ayers, who carried seven of eight plays in getting Morgan (and Andrews) into position for the late field goal, went over from 2 yards out to open the scoring. The Dunbar graduate, 5 feet 11, 205 pounds, went on to rush 27 times for 111 yards.
Persell complemented this effort by completing 19 of 30 passes for 262 yards and the team's first passing touchdown of the season, a 2-yard toss to Walter Bland.
Persell, 6-3, 190, used two great fakes to decoy defenders, then swept outside for touchdown runs of 25 and 35 yards.
Passes to Bland and Glenny Moore boosted the count to 34-0 with 6:09 left in the third quarter.
Although this was a team effort, the offensive line, maligned in earlier losses, had as much to do with the win as anybody. Seniors James Ledbetter, Scott Nelson, Carlos Rice, Ronald Green and Craig Still gave Persell the best protection he's had all season.
In getting his first victory as a head coach, Ricky Diggs said: "I was on pins and needles. The offense did an excellent job of executing what that offense is capable of doing."
NOTES: Morgan had a first-half edge on total offense, 293 yards to 34. . . . Senior LB Reno Lucas -- who had said earlier in the week that the game would go to the team that wanted it more, and that was Morgan -- led the Bears defense with 11 tackles, a sack and 4 passes broken up.
The slide is over
With its 37-28 victory over Howard yesterday, Morgan State ended a string of 12 straight losses to Division I teams and a string of 7 successive losses to Howard.
Morgan State defeated 2 I-AA teams (Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina A&T) in September 1989 in starting 3-0-1, but before that, its last win over a I-AA team was 15-14 over Howard in 1983.
Here are Morgan's yearly records, with whom they beat, since 1984:
Year.. ..Record.. ..Defeated
1984.. .. 0-10.. .. .. .. ..
1985.. .. .0-9.. .. .. .. ..
1986.. .. .1-8.. .. UDC, 21-16
1987.. .. .1-9.. .. UDC, 14-3
1988.. .. 1-10.. .. Eliz. City, 21-0
1989.. ..4-6-1.. .. Norfolk St., 31-20; Beth.-Cook., 12-6;
.. .. .. .. .. ..N.C. A&T, 27-7; Cheyney, 19-12; Bowie St., 14-14
1990.. .. 1-10.. .. Cheyney, 2-0
1991.. .. 1-10.. .. Howard U., 37-28