S. Carolina State rallies by Morgan State, 29-26

Lester becomes Bears' all-time leading receiver

College Football

November 11, 2001|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Morgan State wide receiver Marc Lester hasn't had many winning moments at Hughes Stadium. The senior has had to perform on the Bears' home field, which was closed two years for renovations.

So when Lester caught a touchdown late in regulation in his final home game yesterday, giving Morgan its first lead, it seemed fitting. But South Carolina State ruined the ending, rallying for a 29-26 victory before a Senior Day crowd of 4,375.

"We've just got to learn how to finish," Lester said after talking to family and friends. "That has been our problem all year, learning how to finish, but we'll be all right."

The Bears (2-8, 1-6 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) dropped their fourth straight after winning back-to-back home games. Morgan, which finishes its season Saturday at Hampton, has lost five games by a total of 23 points.

Lester, who became the school's all-time leading receiver, nabbed his third scoring pass from Jorge Pena with 2:15 left in the game to give Morgan a 26-21 lead.

The Bulldogs (4-5, 3-3) then went 66 yards in less than two minutes as quarterback Brett Young dived into the end zone with 20.6 seconds left to extend South Carolina State's winning streak over the Bears to 19 games.

"We could be easily having a winning season, but that has been the story of this team," said Morgan State coach Stanley Mitchell. "They gave me everything we had. In the fourth quarter, we just can't put it together. You can do nine things right, but everybody remembers the one thing you do wrong."

While Lester (10 catches for 167 yards) entered the record books, senior running back Ali Culpepper (Dunbar) joined him, scoring his 12th touchdown of the season. Pena, a sophomore filling in for the injured Lejominick Washington, threw for 367 yards.

South Carolina State rushed for 312 yards but didn't have much success in the second half against Morgan's defensive front.

With 3:11 remaining in the game, Justin Thomas intercepted a South Carolina State option pitch that led to Lester's final score.

Young, taking over for starter Leon McCampbell in the final drive, found Larry Grant for a 33-yard gain on third-and-six from the Bears' 46-yard line, then hit Johnny Allen with a strike inside the 1. After Young scored, Kambui Maxwell ran in the two-point conversion.

"We just didn't come out clicking in the first couple series. After we settled down, we felt we were unstoppable," said Morgan sophomore linebacker Albert Gamble. "We just didn't come with the same intensity and finish the game strong."

Maxwell (138 yards) put the Bears in a 14-0 hole with scoring runs of 1 and 12 yards. Culpepper's 1-yard run with 8:27 left in the second quarter placed him ahead of James Phillips (1993) for the single-season touchdown mark. He needs only 34 yards to become the all-time leading rusher.

After Maxwell's third score extended South Carolina State's lead to 21-6, Lester secured his place atop the Bears' receiving list in style, catching a 46-yard touchdown pass from Pena with 2:03 remaining in the first half.

The Bears denied South Carolina State on fourth-and-goal play from the 1, and embarked on a 12-play, 94-yard drive capped by Pena and Lester teaming on a 10-yard scoring play with 6:03 left in the third quarter.

"I really wanted the win," said Lester, who has 132 career receptions. "I wanted to win this for my teammates. The record was secondary."

S. Carolina State 14 7 0 8 -- 29

Morgan State 0 13 6 7 -- 26

Next for Morgan

Opponent: Hampton

Site: Armstrong Field, Hampton, Va.

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Record: 6-4

Yesterday: Beat North Carolina A&T, 23-7.

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