Morgan can't stem Norfolk's tide in 33-27 loss

Bears lead by 10 at half, but Spartans charge back

College Football

November 04, 2001|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With Norfolk State bringing the worst offense in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to Morgan State yesterday afternoon, it looked like an opportunity for the Bears to improve the morale of their defensive unit.

Instead, Morgan ended up the perfect solution to Norfolk State's problems as the Spartans rallied for a 33-27 victory before 6,472 at Hughes Stadium.

"They were more hungry than we were," Morgan State coach Stanley Mitchell said. "We didn't play up to our potential again. We had some big mistakes that cost us the game. We're in position to knock down passes, intercept passes. It was basic stuff and we weren't doing it."

Wasting a 10-point halftime advantage, Morgan State (2-7, 1-5) saw a chance at a third consecutive victory at its newly remodeled home field turn into a third straight defeat.

In their previous loss, a 22-20 defeat by Morris Brown on Oct. 27, the Bears allowed their opponent to drive down the field near the end for a game-winning field goal.

After John Vorosholin connected on a 44-yard field goal yesterday to get Morgan even at 27 with 5:09 remaining in regulation, Norfolk State took the lead for good less than three minutes later when Charles Burnett picked up William Smith's fumble near the goal line and scored.

Norfolk State improved to 5-3, 3-3 with the win.

Coming into the game with an average of 62 yards rushing, Norfolk had 283 yesterday, with Smith gaining 210 on 36 attempts. Smith did all the work on the winning drive, including two runs of 31 yards before fumbling.

The Bears had two opportunities in the final two minutes, with their last chance ending when Kyle Grove intercepted a pass by Lejominick Washington with 47.3 seconds remaining.

"It was a lack of execution," said Washington. "We haven't played as three whole units - offense, defense and special teams. Today, we played a lot better as a unit, but there were still breakdowns."

The Bears put up only 87 of their 371 offensive yards in the second half after building a 24-14 halftime lead. Morgan had three first downs in the final 30 minutes, all coming in the fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Vorosholin's game-tying field goal.

"We asked a lot from the defense today - too much really," said senior running back Ali Culpepper, who rushed for 68 yards. "If you have no offensive production, it brings down the team. The offense really lost the game."

With less than 18 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Vorosholin had a punt blocked by Richard Brown, and Anthony Dillard picked up the ball and ran it back for a touchdown to tie the game.

The Bears then came up with a big defensive play of their own as Jamar Williams returned an interception 53 yards for a score.

Morgan State pushed its lead to 21-7 with 4:54 left in the second period when Washington threw an 80-yard strike to William Sherman. But the Bears failed to retain their momentum as Norfolk went 67 yards in six plays.

"When people see the loss column, they've got to realize this is not the same Morgan. We're not getting blown out or shut out," said Washington, who was 12-for-33 for 205 yards. "We're actually bringing fire to the game, but we're not finishing in the crucial times."

Norfolk State 7 7 6 13 - 33

Morgan State 7 17 0 3 - 27

Next for Morgan

Opponent: South Carolina State

Site: Hughes Stadium

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Record: 3-5

Yesterday: Beat Howard, 37-33

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