Morgan just misses changing MEAC luck

Beth.-Cookman's big plays top Bears in opener, 35-24

September 02, 2001|By Chris Farkas | Chris Farkas,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Bethune-Cookman defeated Ali Culpepper and Morgan State, 35-24, last night in the 48th Annual Gateway Classic.

The Wildcats, buoyed by big scoring plays all night, had a comfortable lead cut to 28-24 midway through the fourth quarter and the Bears - winless in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference last season - looked poised to capture the season opener, a good tonic after a year that ended 1-10.

However, another big play by Bethune-Cookman put the game out of reach.

The Wildcats slammed the door midway through the final quarter with a 64-yard pass-and-run from freshman quarterback Allen Suber to redshirt junior running back Shaun Ford.

Culpepper finished with 197 yards on 33 carries and all three of Morgan's touchdowns. Morgan State (0-1) nearly avenged last year's 42-6 rout at the hands of the Wildcats.

"This team is ranked No. 8 in the nation," Bears coach Stanley Mitchell said of Bethman-Cookman. "We made some mistakes and they cost us big time. We gave up two of our touchdowns just on mistakes."

Morgan State kept the game tight through the first half, despite an ineffective performance by sophomore quarterback Jorge Pena, who was 2-for-12 with no interceptions but only 8 yards.

Defense and Culpepper's 111 rushing yards kept the Bears close before halftime. "As a senior, I felt I had to pick up my game and show the team what I'm all about," Culpepper said. "My line gave me some seams, and I hit them."

Junior kicker Jon Veroshilin's punt late in the first quarter pinned the Wildcats at their own 4-yard line.

The Bears' defensive line held, forcing Bethune-Cookman's first punt of the game. Senior wide receiver Marc Lester returned it to the Wildcats' 7. Culpepper took the next play and ran into the end zone for Morgan State's first score.

The Bears' defense then stymied the Wildcats, allowing only a single yard of offense in their next stand. Senior linebacker Albert Gamble then forced a fumble by Suber.

Culpepper once again marched into the end zone on a single-play drive, this time from the 12-yard line to tie the game at 14 early in the second quarter.

Suber continued running and throwing with authority, however, making the score 21-17 at halftime.

After the half, Mitchell brought in quarterback Gustavious Patterson. "Pena just wasn't making contact," Mitchell said. "He wasn't seeing over the line, and we thought Patterson might make some contact."

However, Culpepper remained the Bears' main weapon. Early in the fourth quarter, he blew past the entire Wildcats' defense, knocking off two defenders and nearly dragging a third into the end zone with him en route to a 51-yard touchdown gallop. This brought the Bears to their closest point in the second half at 28-24.

"This is one of the top teams in the country," Mitchell said. "They [the Wildcats] didn't embarrass us, and we didn't embarrass the school, they never quit on me."

Morgan State 7 10 0 7 - 24 B-Cookman 14 7 7 7 - 35

BC - Ford 21 pass from Suber (Adrian kick) BC - Mathis 59 kickoff return (Adrian kick) MS - Culpepper 7 run (Veroshilin kick) MS - Culpepper 11 run (Veroshilin kick) BC - Tarrish 45 pass from Suber (Adrian kick) MS - Veroshilin 35 field goal BC - Baggs 75 fumble recovery (Adrian kick) MS - Culpepper 51 run (Veroshilin kick) BC - Ford 64 pass from Suber (Adrian kick)

Next for Morgan

Opponent: Florida A&M

Site: Bragg Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Record: 1-0

Yesterday: Beat Delaware State, 35-17

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