Overtime holds bad news for Bears S.C. State (4-0) survives furious Morgan rally, 34-27

October 05, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Mistakes hurt Morgan State yesterday. But the overtime play selection may have ruined it.

After roaring back from a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter -- to force overtime, the Bears switched from short passes and off-tackle runs to back-to-back halfback options in the extra period, which led to a 34-27 defeat to South Carolina State before 3,750 at Hughes Stadium.

Morgan State (2-3) lost its 16th consecutive game to the Bulldogs. The Bears last won in the series in 1979. S.C. State (4-0), ranked No. 6 in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network black college poll, is off to its best start in 14 years.

The Bulldogs needed only two plays to score on their overtime possession. Johnny Loper caught a 21-yard pass from Reggie Curry.

Forced to match the touchdown, the Bears countered with two trick plays on first and second downs as backup quarterback Donald Green lined up in the backfield and then threw the ball far over the heads of the intended receivers.

The game ended when Morgan quarterback Willie McGirt failed on a pass into the end zone.

The play selection surprised many since Green hadn't attempted a pass in the game and was questionable to play because of an ankle injury. The first two plays also kept the ball away from the hot combination of McGirt (9-for-16, 154 yards in the fourth quarter) and running back Moses Cody (107 second-half yards rushing), who had spearheaded the comeback.

Morgan coach Stump Mitchell bypassed the post-game news conference.

"It surprised me the second time," Morgan wide receiver Na'im Greene said. "They noticed he was our backup quarterback when he came on the field. But now we can say that. If we had scored, everyone would be like, 'What a great call.' I would never question Coach."

Critical penalties and special-teams breakdowns had put Morgan into a 24-7 deficit. As the Bears rallied on offense, scoring on three of four possessions, their defense held the Bulldogs to 23 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.

"Morgan played inspired football," S.C. State coach Willie Jeffries said. "They took it to us. They continue to get better every year."

Next for Morgan

Opponent: North Carolina A&T

Site: Hughes Stadium

When: 2 p.m. Saturday

Record: 3-1

Yesterday: Beat Tenn. State, 49-37

Pub Date: 10/05/97

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