Howard spoils Morgan's return home

Bears' losing streak reaches 8 after 41-15 loss in new Hughes Stadium

September 23, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Morgan State waited two long years to play a home game and was desperately counting on a positive turn to coincide with the arrival of newly renovated Hughes Stadium.

A fresh start is exactly what the Bears believed was needed, but instead they started out stale against Howard University yesterday afternoon and never found any footing on their new home turf.

With an unpredictable and surprisingly efficient offense complementing a suddenly sack-happy defense, the visiting Bison spoiled Morgan State's return to campus with an overwhelming 41-15 win in front of 14,262 fans.

Morgan State, now 0-3 overall and in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, extended its losing streak to eight games dating to last season. Howard (1-2) also caught the Bears in the all-time series (32-32-3) between the teams with its seventh straight win.

Coming off two solid road showings in losses at Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M, upper-echelon teams in the MEAC, the Bears were totally stunned by the time Howard quarterback Donald Clark threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Simmonds with time expired in the second quarter. The halftime score read Howard 28, Morgan State 0.

"I was really shocked," said Morgan State coach Stanley Mitchell. "We talked about pride and opening up this new stadium with a win and then to have Howard come in and beat us like this. ... We were not focused and came out awfully flat. We didn't look like the same team we were in the first two games."

After Morgan State senior running back Ali Culpepper (nine carries, 61 yards) ran 32 yards on the Bears' first play from scrimmage, the Howard defense limited him to just 29 more the rest of the way. Sophomore quarterback LeJominick Washington, in his first collegiate start, didn't fare much better with the Bison racking up a school- record 11 sacks - Tracy White and Oby Arah both collecting four each - after compiling just 21 all of last season.

"We didn't match their intensity at all," said Culpepper, who came into the game as the MEAC's leading rusher with 324 yards. "Coming off two hard losses, I thought we'd come out with a little more motivation, but it didn't happen. I think it was a combination of things - we were too excited and not focused enough with the opening of the new stadium."

The Howard offense, which finished with 465 total yards, also made all the big plays - running misdirection plays on the ground early and then going to the air later to build the 28-0 halftime lead. Junior Vincent Neclos ran for 174 yards on 17 carries, scoring the first of his two touchdowns from 3 yards out to complete a nine-play, 48-yard drive for a 14-0 lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter.

Howard junior quarterback Donald Clark (16-for-23, 273 yards) threw two second-quarter touchdown passes and the Bison left little doubt after the break with another touchdown set up by a 53-yard run from Neclos on its first possession of the third quarter to lead 35-0.

"We talked about coming out in the first half and really attacking them, and giving our defense something to play for," said Clark.

Mitchell said the Bears have to keep looking forward and hopefully the new beginning set to begin yesterday will start next Saturday night with a first-ever home game under lights against neighborhood rival Towson (1-2) slated for 7 o'clock.

"We've got to leave those losses behind us and just start brand new and say that we can win the rest of these games that are coming up here - especially these home games," he added. "We're going to look at some things, may make some changes and we've got to look at how we coach and what we've got."

Said Culpepper: "It was all new to us, so hopefully it was short and we can get over it in a hurry. We got another battle coming next week and, if we can't get up for Towson or Howard, we're in trouble."

Howard 14 14 7 6 - 41

Morgan State 0 0 3 12 - 15

Next for Morgan

Opponent: Towson

Site: Hughes Stadium

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.

Record: 1-2

Yesterday: Lost to Holy Cross, 17-9

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