Morgan routs Charleston Southern, 54-20, in opener Backup QB Chase throws for 3 TDs

September 05, 1993|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

The Morgan State football team has been starved for this feeling.

Throughout their spring and summer camps, the Bears have talked about reviving their program, which has been mediocre at best for the past 14 years and mostly forgettable under $l third-year coach Ricky Diggs.

Yesterday, before 4,517 at Hughes Stadium, the Bears took the first step toward their first winning season since 1979. They overcame shaky defense, a sloppy offensive start and an early 11-point deficit by rallying for three second-quarter touchdowns. That sparked a 54-20 rout over visiting Charleston Southern in both teams' season opener.

Although the victory came at the expense of a Buccaneers team in only its third year of existence -- and its first year at the Division I-AA level after two seasons at Division III -- the Bears were not about to be picky.

"Regardless of what level they [Charleston] are from, it's a competitive sport and they still could have beaten us," senior running back Tony Phillips said. "This is something we needed. This is going to set the tone for us this year. We want to prove to ourselves and the nation that we're on the rebound."

It marked only the fourth victory at Morgan State under Diggs, whose Bears are trying to dig out from underneath a 2-9 season. It also was Morgan State's first opening victory under Diggs.

"I'm happier for the kids than I am for myself. They've been on an emotional roller coaster," Diggs said.

The Bears won by wearing down the Buccaneers with their size and speed, and by showcasing their offensive depth. Despite minimal contributions from proven stars like Phillips, quarterback Orlando Persell and wide receiver Jesse Humphrey, Morgan State overmatched the Buccaneers with its supporting cast.

Backup senior quarterback Maurice Chase had the biggest impact. After Persell and Morgan's young offensive line struggled through an ineffective first quarter, in which Charleston took a 14-6 lead, Chase entered and reversed the Bears' slide.

First, he engineered a 54-yard drive by hitting four straight passes. The last one, a 19-yard touchdown to Otis Covington into tight, man-to-man coverage, ignited the Bears and pulled them to within 14-12 with 9:03 left in the first half. On the Bears' next possession, they worked the screen pass nicely. Chase hit Chris Ursini, who sprinted down the middle, faked to the outside, and went down the right sideline to complete a 66-yard touchdown.

Morgan cornerback Eric Johnson then picked off a pass inside the Charleston 30 -- one of three interceptions by the Bears -- to set up another score. Three plays later, Phillips scored on a 7-yard run to give Morgan a 26-14 halftime lead.

"I've been in this system for three years. Me and P [Persell] are pretty close [in skills]. He's a little bigger and stronger than me. I just wait for my turn," said Chase, who completed nine of 15 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns.

With Persell (4-for-6, 87 yards, one touchdown, one interception) back in the second half, the Bears put the game away in their first two possessions. After Charleston's Dennis Decker closed the gap to 26-17 with a 25-yard field goal six minutes into the third period, the Bears made it 33-17 on a 26-yard reverse by Bernard Barnes, then blocked a Charleston punt and quickly cashed in on a 15-yard touchdown run by Persell. With 1:11 left in the quarter, the Bears led, 40-17.

Morgan State's offensive fireworks, which included 289 passing and 171 rushing yards, covered up a defensive effort that left much to be desired. Despite surrendering two touchdowns -- thanks in part to eight penalties and four turnovers by the Buccaneers -- the Bears allowed 424 yards, 383 on the ground.

Persell was Morgan State's leading rusher, with seven carries for 63 yards. D'Angelo Dereef led Charleston with 136 yards on 19 carries.

Quarterback Brad Johnson rushed 17 times for 122 yards.

Things didn't look good for the Bears early. After Shane Griffith, who scored 13 points on two field goals and seven extra points, gave the Bears a 3-0 lead on a 31-yard field goal, Charleston went to work against Morgan State's defense.

It drove 84 yards on nine running plays, including some big gainers off the quarterback option.

Johnson broke runs of 15 and 35 yards, then pitched to Dereef for 18 yards to the Morgan 12. Four plays later, Johnson scored from the 1.

On Morgan State's ensuing possession, Phillips lost the ball after a short gain, and the Buccaneers recovered at the 23.

"We can relish this tomorrow, but we've got to get off of that cloud and get back to business on Monday," Diggs said.

NEXT FOR MORGAN:

BETHUNE-COOKMAN

When: Saturday, at Daytona Beach, Fla., 1 p.m.

Record: 0-1

Yesterday: Lost to Division II Knoxville, 33-31, on a 12-yard touchdown pass as time ran out. Kelvin Daniels rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns for the Wildcats.

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