Bears lose game, shot at conference championship

November 16, 2008|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Torrential rains ended just in time yesterday for host Morgan State to see its slim chances for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship wash away.

The host Bears managed just 133 yards of offense and committed four turnovers in a 32-0 loss to South Carolina State.

The win clinched the MEAC title for the Bulldogs (9-2, 7-0 MEAC), who extended their winning streak to seven. It's their first outright conference championship since 1994.

The Bears (6-5, 4-3), who entered the game tied for second place in the conference, needed to win their final two games and have South Carolina State lose its season finale to North Carolina A&T to have any chance at claiming their first MEAC title since 1979.

"It's a matter of getting these young men to show up when you have the opportunity to play in these types of games," Bears coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "This is probably our first opportunity to play in games of this magnitude in almost 30 years. Now that you've taught them how to get here, you've got to teach them how to sustain."

After its second straight loss, however, Morgan must defeat Hampton next week simply to preserve its first winning season since 2003. The shutout was its first at Hughes Stadium since 1998, also against South Carolina State.

Junior running back Devan James led the Bears with 22 carries for 79 yards despite often running against eight or nine defenders in the box. He has 1,316 yards for the season.

Jeremy Glover, starting in place of injured quarterback Carlton Jackson (shoulder), completed just eight of 20 passes for 50 yards, with three interceptions. Jackson, who has missed the past two games, was cleared to play but was held out as a precaution by Hill-Eley.

"We have to get them to understand that when one guy goes down, the other guy steps up," said Hill-Eley, who pulled Glover in favor of third-stringer Mario Melton early in the fourth quarter.

With both teams struggling on offense in the game's early minutes, South Carolina State took the lead courtesy of its special teams, when Phillip Adams took a punt at his 39, cut left and followed his blocks down the sideline for a 61-yard touchdown.

Things only got worse for the Bears from there. The Bulldogs finally got their offense on track in the second quarter, gaining yards in bunches.

They put together a six-play, 81-yard drive early in the quarter, capped by DeWain Clark's 3-yard touchdown pass to Phillip Morris off a play-action to extend the lead to 12-0.

Another special teams mistake cost Morgan before halftime, when Bears punter Johnathan Skeete fumbled the snap and was called for illegally kicking the ball off the turf. The penalty gave the Bulldogs the ball at Morgan's 1, and they capitalized five plays later when Travil Johnson scored from a yard out.

The Bears managed just two first downs in the first half.

"We need to turn our level up and stop making mistakes," James said. "We need to end the season out right."

The carnage continued in the second half, when on the second play of the half, Morris took a screen pass and went 37 yards down the sideline to extend the lead to 25. Defensive lineman Markus James then returned an interception 39 yards early in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.

HAMPTON (5-5, 4-3 MEAC) @MORGAN STATE (6-5, 4-3)

Saturday, 1 p.m.

Radio: 88.9 FM

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