Littlejohn tower of strength for Morgan

Big QB's running, passing stand out for 0-3 Bears

September 21, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

In Morgan State's preseason football guide, under the listing of quarterbacks, incumbent Lejominick Washington was granted No. 1 status.

A footnote added that the backup role was a contest between holdover "[Jorge] Pena and newcomer Bradshaw Littlejohn. Littlejohn is a 6-foot-3, 258-pound athlete with a rifle of an arm and remarkable speed for his size."

But three games into the Bears' so-far winless season, Washington has been hindered by a knee injury, rustiness and - in last week's loss to Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference favorite Florida A&M - inefficiency.

Pena has thrown one pass.

On the other hand, Littlejohn, the transfer from Michigan State labeled "The Big Show," has become the man.

Entering tonight's home opener against 0-2 Monmouth, Littlejohn is ranked third nationally among NCAA Division I-AA players in total offense. He's seventh in passing efficiency, 27th in rushing yards a carry and 35th in passing, despite missing a good portion of last week's game while coach Donald Hill-Eley tested Washington's readiness.

"We had to go back to Littlejohn and he did a great job of getting our offense moving," Hill-Eley said. "Washington's rhythm was off [three interceptions, four sacks]. Littlejohn is a guy that's mobile, and he is the one we're going to go with."

With his size, arm strength and bullish running ability, Littlejohn presents a myriad of problems for opposing defenses. He has already been involved in seven plays covering at least 34 yards, four of them for touchdowns. He has been so effective Hill-Eley used him at tailback for four downs against the Rattlers.

Morgan won back the Gaffney, S.C., native because Michigan State wanted him to play another position.

"I was going to come here out of high school," said Littlejohn, who described his current weight as "250, down from 268 before two-a-days. Michigan State was playing me at outside linebacker and I was getting used to that. All of a sudden, they moved me to fullback. I like quarterback because I'm free. I can see what I've got open."

Because of Littlejohn and such companions as tight end Visenthe Shiancoe, all-purpose back T.J. Stallings and kick returner William Sherman, the Bears have averaged nearly 23 points. Their offense has been potent and, at times, spectacular. They just haven't been able to tighten a defense that has permitted 111 points already.

Part of the reason for the attack's success is "the tempo of the team seems to improve. Our young men believe in Littlejohn, that he can make plays," Hill-Eley said. "We used him at tailback because after losing Ali Culpepper [last season's top rusher, who completed his eligibility] we want to get the ball into the best players' hands.

"We'll find a way to get him in there. There's no way he could stand on the sidelines beside me; he'll be on the field unless he's winded."

Which suits Littlejohn just fine. He doesn't want to be relegated to a role that primarily calls for blocking, a fact that Michigan State learned.

"I'll wear whatever hat it takes to win a game," he said. "But I like to run so I can keep the fat linemen happy, keep them blocking. They treat me right and I treat them [to meals]."

Recruited by a number of big-time collegiate programs, including Miami (Fla.) and Florida State, Littlejohn likes the fact that, in the MEAC, he can bowl over linebackers and defensive backs, who are generally smaller than those at the heavyweight schools.

He said he believes that the Bears are on the verge of victory.

"We are just hurting ourselves," he said. "Nobody has out-talented us. If we get everybody under control, we can still be MEAC champions. I'm not keeping up with the stats too much. I just want to win."

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