Morgan meets its match, comes out ahead

Bears give rookie coach Mitchell 1st win, 24-21, over lowly Rhode Island

September 26, 1999|By Dan Hickling | Dan Hickling,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

KINGSTON, R.I. -- Shining moments have not been plentiful for the Morgan State football team, as evidenced by its one win in 15 previous starts. Yesterday, however, provided the Bears with a welcome respite from their futility, as they met Rhode Island, which is equally acquainted with suffering.

Morgan broke its six-game losing streak dating to last year, while extending the Rams' own skid to six, with a 24-21 win before 2,067 at Meade Stadium.

The Bears (1-2) came in a little undermanned and perhaps a little rusty, given their long layoff because of the hurricane-induced postponement of last week's game against South Carolina State. Their leading rusher, tailback Ali Culpepper, suffered turf toe in practice and missed the game.

"We're pretty good runners ourselves," said Bears quarterback Willie McGirt, who dashed 47 yards in the first quarter to give Morgan State a 7-0 lead.

Andre Bryant had touchdown bursts of 13 and 3 yards, and K.C. Vasquez booted a 32-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give rookie coach Stanley Mitchell his first win.

"We've been working so hard for this game," Mitchell said. "As long as we stayed in it, we knew we had a chance to win it. Our ballplayers stayed up for it."

Morgan came out on top, even though it lost some statistical battles. The Bears were outgained 481-311, including 346-128 through the air, as Rhode Island (0-3) held the ball for 34 of the 60 minutes.

"You can take all the stats, throw in a dollar, then get yourself a cup of coffee," Rhode Island coach Floyd Keith said.

Matters began as might be expected with two struggling teams. Rhode Island had to take three cracks at keeping the opening kickoff in bounds. On its first series, Rhode Island went from first-and-five at the Morgan 39 to a second-and-35 on its own 30, before finally fumbling away to the Bears.

Morgan moved to the Rams' 11 after a 40-yard pass from McGirt to Marc Lester, but McGirt was picked off at the 7 by Chuck Wesley.

The Bears scored on their next two series, beginning with a 47-yard run by McGirt on a quarterback keeper down the left sideline.

Another Rhode Island turnover gave Morgan the ball at the Rams' 46, and two plays later, Bryant ran it in from the 13 to boost the lead to 14-0.

After two Rhode Island touchdowns, Morgan opened a 24-14 lead on Vasquez's field goal with 12: 50 to play in the game.

"This team has been losing for so long," said Mitchell, "that we don't know how to win. We felt if we could win the first game, it will make it easier to win some more."

Next for Morgan

Opponent: Florida A&M

Site: Bragg Memorial Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Record: 2-2

Yesterday: Beat South Carolina State, 76-17

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