Morgan gets respect, but not victory Fla. A&M rallies for 42-32 win

November 01, 1992|By Dan Ryan | Dan Ryan,Contributing Writer

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Yesterday, Morgan State got a step closer to shedding its image as the perfect homecoming opponent. The Bears made the home team work a little to impress the alumni.

For three quarters, the Bears outplayed Florida A & M before the Rattlers posted a 42-32 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference victory before 28,547 at Bragg Stadium.

It was the third consecutive loss for the Bears (2-6 overall, 0-4 in MEAC play) and the second straight week they have been a homecoming foe. It was a far better showing than last year's 55-6 Rattler victory.

"The scary thing is that Morgan State has a lot of sophomores and juniors on that team," said Florida A&M coach Ken Riley, whose team leads the MEAC by a half-game. "We're just happy to get out of here with a victory."

MSU coach Rickey Diggs was happy with his team's performance. "You know, I wish we were everyone's [homecoming] opponent," Diggs said. "I love showing that this is a different Morgan State team, one with quality players who play their hearts out."

Morgan State led 17-14 at half-time and was on the verge of going up by 10 midway in the third quarter.

The Bears had mounted a 46-yard drive and were inside the FAMU 20 when Rattler cornerback Darrell Smith scooped up an Orlando Persell fumble and returned it 74 yards for the score. It gave the Rattlers a 21-17 lead.

"We made some errors again that have been killing us all season," Diggs said. We know we're capable of moving the ball and scoring on anybody, we're just not scoring enough."

After the Rattlers increased their lead to 28-17 on a 23-yard pass from Casey Weldon to Keith Kelly, the Bears pulled back to within 28-24 on an 8-yard Tony Phillips' run with 11:32 left.

Then the Bears received a golden opportunity when defensive tackle Matthew Steeple picked off Weldon at the FAMU 13. However, the drive stalled. Diggs elected to go for the field goal, but Michael Andrew missed a 24-yarder.

"I wanted to score," Diggs said. "With 10 minutes to go, I felt it was advantageous to get the points, especially with the way we were moving on offense."

The Rattlers pulled away on a pair of long runs by junior Earl Reeves. Morgan added a late score on Phillips' third touchdown with 1:01 remaining.

In the first quarter, Morgan stunned the homecoming crowd by taking a 10-0 lead on a 4-yard Persell keeper and Andrews' 38-yard field goal. Both were set up by Rattler mistakes. Florida A&M took a 14-10 lead, but Morgan regained its composure late in the half. Shawn Lightfoot stopped a Rattler drive when he intercepted Weldon. Persell then manufactured a 95-yard drive that culminated in a 5-yard Phillips' run.

Persell finished with 484 yards passing, the most ever against a Rattler defense. Also, the Bears accumulated 583 total yards, another record, and 136 more than top-ranked Miami gained on the Rattlers earlier this season.

NB "My line was giving me all the time to execute," Persell said.

Morgan State 10 7 0 15 -- 32

Florida A&M 7 7 7 21 -- 42

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