Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley went conservative in Saturday's game with Towson. The rain started in the first quarter and got harder as time went on, so Hill-Eley decided to play the field-position game - and his plan worked perfectly.
Darren McKhan returned a blocked extra point for a two-point conversion and made a crucial fourth-quarter interception, and Morgan's defense came up with several key plays late to help the Bears hang on for a 12-9 victory over Towson at Hughes Stadium. This was the Bears' first victory against the Tigers since 2003.
Hill-Eley's plan worked because his defense came up big several times.
Towson ran up 344 yards of total offense, but the Bears forced three turnovers, blocked the extra point and limited the Tigers to two of 13 third-down conversions. Punter Nicholas Adams made a number of good kicks to pin Towson deep.
"I didn't want to do anything that would give them any energy," Hill-Eley said. "Some coaches don't take it into consideration, but with me, we always take Mother Nature into consideration."
The Morgan offense never really got going, finishing with only six first downs and 161 yards but had just one turnover. All three of Towson's turnovers came in the fourth quarter, ending its last three drives and handing the Tigers a 13th straight road loss.
"I give all the credit to Morgan," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said.
"They made less mistakes than we did. In weather conditions like these, penalties and turnovers make all the difference."
The first big play of the game came after Towson's Tony Zaccarelli recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter for a 6-0 lead. After Morgan's James Cole blocked Jon Boyer's extra-point attempt, McKhan picked up the loose ball and ran it all the way back for two points.
"That was a critical two points," McKhan said. "I believe that was the momentum changer that set the tone of the game."
Morgan got its only long drive of the game when it marched 89 yards on 12 plays, finishing with Carlton Jackson's 26-yard touchdown pass to Lamont Bryant for a 9-6 lead with 9:53 left in the first half.
The Tigers failed on a fake punt a few minutes later to give Morgan the ball at the Towson 30. Kemar Scarlett finished it off with a 41-yard field goal with 6:02 left in the half to make it 12-6.
Boyer cut the lead to 12-9 with his first college field goal, a 35-yard kick early in the second half, but neither team scored again.
McKhan picked off Towson quarterback Peter Athens at the Bears' 33 with 4:18 left as the Tigers were driving. Jody Ellis intercepted Athens again on the next drive as the team that made the fewest mistakes won.
"We cut down our passing attempts in the second half," Hill-Eley said.
"We just wanted to run some of the clock out. We just wanted to win the field-position [game]."
MORGAN STATE @ BETHUNE-COOKMAN
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Radio: 88.9 FM
NEW HAMPSHIRE @TOWSON
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
Radio: 1570 AM