`D' fails, Morgan falls to Bethune-Cookman

Bears allow 623 yards in 51-21 loss to Wildcats

October 03, 2004|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Only one thing this season has overshadowed Morgan State's prolific spread offense. Its utterly porous defense.

The host Bears, who entered play last night giving up an average of 49 points a game, spotted Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference power Bethune-Cookman a two-touchdown lead, then took themselves out of contention with five first-half turnovers in a 51-21 loss.

"You have to stop the bleeding at some point," Morgan Sate coach Donald Hll-Eley said. "You have to find a way to stop the big plays."

On this night, however, it was Bethune-Cookman that was consistently making the big plays.

Led by quarterback Jarod Rucker and running backs Eric Weems (eight carries, 136 yards) and P.J. Smith (8-128), the Wildcats (3-1 overall, 2-0 MEAC) racked up 681 yards of total offense -- including 513 on the ground -- in handing the Bears their fourth straight loss.

It was the most yards allowed by Morgan since giving up 685 yards of total offense to Maine last November.

Despite 515 offensive yards of their own, the Bears (1-4, 0-2) time and again kept themselves out of the end zone with key mistakes, including five interceptions by quarterback Bradshaw Littlejohn. They trailed 31-7 before rallying late with touchdown runs by Byron Selby and Littlejohn.

After their season-opening win over Bowie State, the Bears have allowed 56, 56, 47 and 51 points in consecutive losses, putting their chances of a third straight winning season in peril.

"We need to have a better defensive focus," said strong safety Larry Davis. "You can't point fingers, but you've got to continue to work hard."

For Morgan, the miscues started early. Relying on the passing of Littlejohn and the rushing of junior Jason Jackson, Morgan quickly drove downfield on the game's opening possession.

On a third down at Bethune's 10, however, Littlejohn, under duress, pitched the ball to tight end Chris Cash, who was tackled for a 13-yard loss. The Wildcats took over and embarked on an eight-play, 77-yard drive, capped by Rucker's 12-yard run through the right side.

Minutes later, a fumble by Bears punt returner Brandon Wells at the 18 set up another score, extending the lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.

After the teams traded interceptions, Morgan cut into the lead on four straight runs for a total of 43 yards by Jackson, including a 3-yard touchdown run to make the score 14-7.

That, however, was as close as the Bears would get.

A 49-yard option run by Weems set up his 8-yard scoring run. Bethune-Cookman then got the ball back on its own 2 when Nicholas Oliver intercepted Littlejohn's pass at the goal line, and Rucker's 52-yard scramble set up another touchdown to extend the lead to 28-7 at halftime.

"You can't turn the ball over six or seven times in a game and expect to win -- not against that type of an opponent," Hill-Eley said of the Wildcats, ranked No. 4 in the Sheridan poll of historically black colleges.

Morgan appeared primed for a late-game rally, pulling to within 10 when Larry Davis recovered a fumble deep in his own end and Littlejohn capped an 80-yard drive with a 7-yard scoring run.

But on the next play from scrimmage, Bethune's Smith broke through the middle and outran Morgan's defense for an 81-yard touchdown run, and Isaac Jackson followed with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.

Bethune-Cookman 7 21 3 20 -- 51

Morgan State 0 7 7 7 -- 21

First quarter BC--Rucker 13 run (Cortiez kick), 6:40 Second quarter BC-- Summers 7 pass from Rucker (Cortiez kick), 13:10 MS--Jackson 3 run (Keever kick), 10:36 BC--Weems 8 run (Cortiez kick), 8:34 BC--Summers 33 pass from Rucker (Cortiez kick), 3:24 Third quarter BC--Cortiez 22 FG, 8:51 MS--Selby 1 run (Keever kick), :33 Fourth quarter MS--Littlejohn 7 run (Keever kick), 12:17 BC--Smith 81 run (Cortiez kick), 1:01 BC--Jackson 53 interception return (Cortiez kick), 10:33 BC--Brannon 3 run (kick failed), 5:32 A--n/a.

.................... ...BC MS

First downs 24 24

Rushes-yards 56-513 31-208

Passing 168 339

Comp-Att-Int 8-12-1 21-44-5

Return Yards 125 123

Punts-Avg. 3-37.7 1-43.0

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-6

Penalties-Yards 8-52 6-65

Time of Possession 31:38 26:27

Rushing--Bethune-Cookman, Weems 8-136, Smith 8-128, Rucker 15-72, Brannon 8-49, Butler 6-46, Johnson 6-32, Herbert 3-10, Russell 2-minus 18; Morgan State, Jackson 19-128, Selby 2-30, Littlejohn 6-17, Sweat 3-14, Cash, 1-minus 13. Passing--Bethune-Cookman, Rucker 8-12-1-168 ; Morgan State, Littlejohn 21-44-5-339. Receiving--Bethune-Cookman, Weems 4-78, Summers 3-74, Butler 1-16; Morgan State, Manus 8-119, Mckenzie 6-115, Dickens 3-36, Dixon 2-17, Jackson 1-34, Cash 1-18.

Next for Morgan

Matchup: Morgan State (1-4, 0-2) vs. North Carolina A&T (2-3, 0-1)

Site: Aggie Stadium, Greensboro, N.C.

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Radio: WEAA (88.9 FM)

Yesterday: North Carolina A&T lost to Norfolk State, 27-14

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