Morgan can't help itself in 25-20 loss Bethune-Cookman handles mistake-prone Bears

September 13, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

At this rate, the theme "Bears beat selves" may end up being an appropriate one for the 1998 Morgan State football team. Yesterday, for the second time in two games, the Bears did just that, losing to Bethune-Cookman, 25-20, in a game that wasn't that close.

Once again, the yardage ledger was in favor of Morgan State (0-2, 0-1), which gained 252 yards while giving up 244 in its Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener.

But the mental breakdowns -- penalties, fumbles, missed tackles -- led to big plays for Bethune-Cookman, which is off to its first 2-0 start since 1995.

"We've played two teams that weren't as good as us, and we're 0-2," said Morgan State coach Stump Mitchell, who -- in an unsolicited addendum -- added that he would meet with athletic director Garnett Purnell "and see what he wants to do."

Tailback Jay Hinton, who has cited Mitchell as the reason he transferred here from Arizona, seemed somewhat alarmed at his coach's statement, knowing that Mitchell passed up an NFL assistant's position this summer in order to stay at Morgan State.

"I hope Stump realizes that it's not over, that we can go out there and win the rest of these games," Hinton said. "But he's a man, too, and he has to look out for himself. He passed up an offer from the Kansas City Chiefs. If we're not giving our all when he's giving his all, we can't blame him."

Said Purnell: "We try to talk after every game. Sometimes it's a way for a coach to have an outlet, to talk about certain characteristics of the game."

Meanwhile, Bethune-Cookman, which had lost 17 of its past 18 MEAC games going into yesterday's matchup, saw its victory as a watershed event as it tries to rise in the conference.

"We hadn't had a conference win on the road since 1995, so it was an important win for us," Bethune-Cookman coach Alvin Wyatt said.

Morgan contributed to Bethune-Cookman's confidence-building, fumbling five times and losing three of them. The first fumble came when Warner Herndon had trouble handling an Alton Bolden punt, but the others were on option pitches -- good and bad -- and the snap from center.

After a Hinton fumble in the second quarter, Bethune-Cookman quarterback Pa'tel Troutman avoided a Morgan State rush and sprinted 60 yards up the right sideline to give his team a 6-0 lead with 14: 15 left in the first half.

Still, Morgan stayed close, getting a 27-yard field goal from K.C. Vasquez that narrowed the lead to 6-3 with 1: 23 left in the first half.

Just as quickly in the second half, though, the Bears reverted on special teams. Bethune-Cookman's Antonio Stanley, who returned his only kickoff 42 yards in the season opener against Savannah State, took Vasquez's kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, making the score 12-3 with 14: 41 remaining in the third quarter.

Morgan State got within six after another Vasquez field goal from 34 yards with 7: 59 left in the third. But Vasquez's subsequent kickoff went out of bounds, giving the visitors good field position at their 40. Six plays and 60 yards later, Troutman ran in for his second touchdown, making the score 18-6 with 5: 27 remaining.

With 78 yards on 20 carries, Dunbar product Ali Culpepper once again led Morgan's offense. But it was the defense and special teams that accounted for both of the Bears' touchdowns after the suspense left the game.

Herndon returned an Avery Burke fumble 33 yards with 5: 47 remaining to make the score 25-14, and William Johns returned a blocked punt three yards for a score on the game's last play.

The good news for Morgan? Its next opponent, Norfolk State, lost to Florida A&M yesterday, 84-14.

Next for Morgan

Opponent: Norfolk State

Site: Hughes Stadium

When: Sept. 26, 1: 30 p.m.

Record: 0-2

Yesterday: Lost to Florida A&M, 84-14

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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