Morgan State linebacker Cody Acker heads back to the sidelines… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
North Carolina Central tight end Detwan Robinson broke tackle after tackle in the waning moments of Saturday's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game at Morgan State. Simultaneously, he managed to break the spirits of the announced 11,465 on homecoming day at Hughes Stadium.
On a fourth-and-2 from the Bears' 26, the 256-pound senior hauled in a short pass and refused to go down, muscling out of a pair of tackles before running over defensive back Jerry Jones at the 5 and walking into the end zone with 25 seconds left, as Morgan fell, 24-20.
For the Bears (3-3, 2-1 MEAC), the result was pure agony.
"The kid just made a good catch on the ball. There are probably some different things we could have done, but it shouldn't have come to that," Morgan coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "In the last 30 minutes, we just didn't show up."
Morgan, which was denied its best start since 2009, managed just 95 yards of offense in the second half while allowing 14 of the final 17 points. The team's first homecoming loss since 2006 came despite big plays from running back Travis Davidson, who rushed 105 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for another 60 yards, and kicker Ervin Gonzalez, who nailed a pair of field goals, including a career-long 47-yarder.
Davidson, however, also committed a key turnover in the early moments of the second half.
On the first offensive play of the third quarter, he was stripped of the ball on a run up the middle, and Eagles defensive back Ryan Smith recovered deep in Morgan territory. That set up Arthur Goforth's game-tying 10-yard run just 34 seconds into the half.
The Bears took a 20-17 lead on Gonzalez's 34-yard field goal with 9:05 left, and kept it when Collin Bing partially blocked Oleg Parent's 46-yard attempt midway through the fourth.
But with a chance to potentially run out the clock late in the fourth, the Bears were held to a three-and-out and forced to punt with 2:32 left.
Quarterback Jordan Reid (29 of 38 for 261 yards) then used a series of short passes to quickly drive the Eagles (4-2, 3-0) down the field, taking advantage of missed tackles to gain extra yards.
"Those guys were kinda big, so when we went to hit them, we were just missing tackles. We should have wrapped up more," Morgan defensive tackle Bakari Smith said. "We were real hyped. I guess when that happens people get lost behind people."
Robinson didn't get lost on the decisive touchdown as much as he out-willed defenders.
"Coach said keep your eyes on the linebacker, and when he blitzed I turned around, caught it and I just tried to make a play," said Robinson, who entered the day with one catch all season. "My eyes got real big and I realized that we might win this game."
"When he broke the tackles and kept going I said, 'Oh wow,'" North Carolina Central coach Henry Frazier III said. "That was pretty cool."
North Carolina Central moved the ball seemingly at will to open the game, driving 81 yards in 11 plays, capped by Andre Clarke's five-yard touchdown run.
Though forced to punt on its opening drive, Morgan put itself in prime scoring position on Nathan Ayers' interception of Reid deep in the Eagles end. Four plays later, Gonzalez nailed the 47-yard field goal, with several yards to spare.
The Bears then took the lead on their next possession by riding the legs of Davidson. The senior gained 41 yards on four straight carries to open the drive, then finished it with a five-yard dash through the middle to put Morgan ahead, 10-7.
Following a missed 30-yard field goal attempt by Central, Davidson came up big once more for the Bears, starting right then cutting back and splitting a pair of defenders for a 7-yard score. He finished with 124 yards of total offense in the half, and Morgan went to the locker room up, 17-10.