Higgins, Morgan State air it out in 44-17 win over Savannah State

Freshman throws four touchdown passes in Bears' homecoming victory

October 08, 2011|By Kent Baker, Special to The Baltimore Sun

The combination of an opponent that had never beaten them, a huge and enthusiastic crowd, the memory of a stinging defeat the previous week and a head coach who directed the offense from the press box proved the proper mixture for the Morgan State Bears on Saturday.

They broke open a tight game with two quick third-quarter touchdown strikes and proceeded to pummel Savannah State, 44-17, to delight a homecoming throng of an announced 14,356 watching in ideal football weather at Hughes Stadium.

The 44 points the Bears (3-3, 2-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) scored were just two fewer than their total through the first fives games of the season, in which the offense had struggled mightily.

A 24-3 loss at home to North Carolina A&T on Oct. 1 was in the back of the players' minds all last week, and they responded by rallying together in practice sessions before defeating Savannah State (1-5, 1-2) for the sixth consecutive time.

"We played like we practiced, and that was good," said speedy receiver Andre Nelson, who caught two of the four touchdown passes by freshman Seth Higgins (Edgewood). "Everybody just came together and played their roles. We talked all week about still having a chance to turn things around."

Morgan had a 17-10 halftime lead before erupting for touchdowns on its first two series of the second half, both on long pass plays. After hitting Winfred Diggs for a 43-yard gain, Higgins connected with Nelson for a 34-yard touchdown.

Then, while Higgins took a breather, backup Robert Council threw a 52-yard scoring pass to tight end Lamont Bryant, raising the Morgan advantage to 31-10 with less than six minutes elapsed in the third quarter.

Savannah decreased the deficit to 31-17 later in the quarter, thanks to a botched snap on a Bears punt that put the ball on the Morgan 5-yard line. Even then, the Tigers required all four plays to score. Morgan responded with a 60-yard touchdown march that featured a 35-yard pass from Higgins to Tyrone Hendrix.

Morgan coach Donald Hill-Eley said he took charge of the offense away from the field because "we're three coaches short against everybody we play and we needed a coordinator more than a head coach. You miss a little bit of getting close and personal with the players and working the officials some, but we'd really been struggling offensively and had to do something different."

Hill-Eley said he was impressed with the poise of Higgins, who finished 14-for-24 for 239 yards and four touchdowns.

"He's the first true freshman we've ever played," the coach said. "He has the total game. I'm glad he is mature enough to handle a bad game like last week as well as he did a good one like today."

Said Higgins: "It's coming along. I felt a lot more comfortable today. Everybody did their job. The receivers got themselves open, and it just came down to me making the throws."

Morgan State's alumni also played a role. "It's very good to have a lot of support like that," Nelson said.

Savannah State is having growing pains in its first year under coach Steve Davenport. The Tigers have surrendered at least 30 points in every game and have allowed 249 this season.

But the game took place at an opportune time for Morgan, which is headed to three straight conference road games before returning to Hughes to face MEAC leader Norfolk State.

"Nobody prepares to lose," Hill-Eley said. "You're trying to get results and do the things we can do so guys can feel good about having success. You want each week to end with a win."

Mission accomplished in Week 6.

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