Special teams lift Morgan State in finale, 43-34

Fakes on punt, extra point help thwart Norfolk State

College Football

November 23, 2003|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Morgan State and Norfolk State combined for 11 touchdowns, 77 points and 940 yards of total offense in yesterday's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Hughes Stadium. Norfolk State wide receiver Howard Gilmore had a record-setting day himself with 13 catches for 305 yards.

But despite all of the offense, it was three late plays on special teams that helped Morgan State escape with a 43-34 victory to clinch a second straight winning season. The Bears finished 6-5 and have posted two straight winning campaigns for the first time since 1970-71.

"It's great to have a winning season," said Morgan State junior quarterback Bradshaw Littlejohn. "Now we can tell recruits about two winning seasons. It was a good year."

The Bears are 13-10 in coach Donald Hill-Eley's two seasons. This was the team's first win over Norfolk State since 1989 and is the type of tough victory that will benefit a growing team.

"We inherited so many guys that had lost for so long," Hill-Eley said. "They won the games they had to win this year."

Morgan State (4-3 MEAC) had little trouble moving the ball and finished with 504 yards of total offense. But the Bears couldn't slow a Norfolk State team that lost its final 10 games, as the Spartans totaled 436 yards of offense.

The Bears led for most of the game. Running back Craig Nelson ran for all of his 136 yards and three touchdowns in the first half to give Morgan State a 28-14 halftime lead. Norfolk State (1-11, 0-7) rallied in the second half behind quarterback Dontrell Leonard (23-for-43, 439 yards) and Gilmore to tie the game at 28.

Morgan State's Christian Sweat then turned a short pass from LeJominick Washington into a 61-yard touchdown for a 35-28 lead late in the third quarter. That's when the special teams kicked in.

Leonard's 1-yard touchdown run with 6:29 left cut the lead to 35-34 - but kicker Antonio Gomez pulled his extra-point try wide left. Morgan State's next drive stalled at the Spartans 49-yard line before Hill-Eley called for a fake punt.

The snap went right to up-back Donrico Lewis, who burst through a huge hole for a 42-yard gain down to the Norfolk State 7-yard line.

"I saw a wide-open lane," Lewis said. "It was a good snap, and I just took off and ran."

Washington ran for a touchdown on the following play with 3:19 remaining. But the Bears pulled another fake on the extra point. They lined up for a kick, but holder Jorge Pena rolled right and threw to tight end Camaro Henson for two points.

"We figured they're a young team with a new coach, and their bigger focus this week would be on offense and defense," Hill-Eley said. "So we figured we could do a little razzle-dazzle."

The Bears needed the flashy plays to have an answer for Leonard and Gilmore. Morgan State held Norfolk State to minus-3 yards on 35 carries, but Leonard and Gilmore repeatedly burned the Bears defensive backs.

Gilmore set school records for catches and yards. His longest reception was 42 yards, although he never scored a touchdown and the struggling Spartans running game got all five touchdowns on short runs.

Norfolk State 7 7 14 6 - 34

Morgan State 14 14 7 8 - 43

First quarter MS-Nelson 11 run (Voroshilin kick), 11:29. NS-Anthony 4 run (Gomez kick), 9:01 MS-Nelson 6 run (Voroshilin kick), 3:41. Second quarter MS-Nelson 1 run (Voroshilin kick) 10:18. NS-Anthony 5 run (Gomez kick), 6:25. MS-Dickens 70 pass from Littlejohn (Voroshilin kick), 5:45. Third quarter NS-Hall 1 run (Gomez kick), 12:03. NS-Hall 1 run (Gomez kick), 7:28. MS-Sweat 61 pass from Washington (Voroshilin kick), 3:19. Fourth quarter NS-Leonard 1 run (kick failed), 6:29. MS-Washington 7 run (Henson pass from Pena), 3:19. A-4,254.

NS MS

First downs 22 23

Rushes-yards 35-(-3) 46-316

Passing 439 188

Comp-Att-Int 23-43-2 8-20-1

Return yards 67 71

Punts-Avg. 5-38.4 3-36.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0

Penalties-Yards 5-35 6-65

Time of possession 32:19 27:41

Rushing-Norfolk State, Anthony 14-48, McKinney 3-7, Hall 4-3, Moore 1-(minus 5), Thornton 4-(minus 8), Gomez 1-(minus 12), Leonard 8-(minus 36). Morgan State, Nelson 18-136, Sweat 9-57, Washington 8-48, Lewis 1-42, Hughley 5-41, Kelly 1-5, Pena 1-(minus 5), Littlejohn 3-(minus 8). Passing-Norfolk State, Leonard 23-43-2-439. Morgan State, Washington 4-14-0-98, Littlejohn 2-4-1-95, Grattan 1-1-0-(minus 16), Pena 1-1-0-11. Receiving-Norfolk State, Gilmore 13-305, Johnson 6-105, Anthony 3-20, DelGardo 1-9. Morgan State, Dickens 2-94, Cash 2-36, Sweat 1-61, Henson 1-11, 11-11, Napper 1-2, Smith 1-(minus 16).

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