YPSILANTI, Mich. — Morgan State couldn't quite win one for Marquese Meadow on Saturday night, but it plans to play for him all season.
The Bears played with heavy hearts in their opener after the death of the freshman defensive lineman on Sunday. They fought back from a 14-point deficit, only to fall, 31-28, to Eastern Michigan on Saturday night at Rynearson Stadium.
"It was an emotional roller coaster all week," said Lee Hull, who lost his head coaching debut. "The guys really wanted this game for Marquese, that's why it hurt so bad that we lost the way we lost. But they did a good job of trying to stay focused so they could come out here and perform and try to get the win for Marquese."
Meadow collapsed in practice on Aug. 10 and never recovered. An autopsy determined that Meadow died of complications from heat stroke. A moment of silence was observed before the kickoff.
"We just know who we're doing it for now," said Lamont Brown III, who had 174 all-purpose yards and scored twice. "At first, we already had fuel in our fire, being picked to finish last in the MEAC, but now we have somebody we're really playing for. We're playing for his mother, we're playing for his family and we're playing for ourselves, so that we stay strong the rest of the season."
The Bears may have found their quarterback the rest of the way after a season-long competition last year.Robert Council passed for 269 yards and three touchdowns and also rushed for 71 yards in Hull's spread attack.
"The way our coaches have it set up, whatever the defense does, we've got more than one option for that play," said Council, who completed 18 of 28 passes. "We've got three plays in one, so I feel we're ready."
Council, who threw two touchdown passes in nine games last season, completed a 46-yard scoring pass to Brown and a 34-yarder to Landen Malbrough to erase an early 21-7 deficit by halftime. He also found Thomas Martin on a 75-yard scoring strike to put the Bears up 28-21 in the third quarter.
What Morgan State couldn't do was stop the run in the second half. It gave up 200 yards on the ground after halftime and 292 overall.
"Eastern Michigan did a good job. They're big up front and they decided that they were just going to try to run the ball on us, pound us," said Hull, who was the University of Maryland's wide receivers coach the last six seasons. "We've got to hold up better, get off the field and get some stops on defense."
The Eagles moved back in front 31-28 on Ryan Brumfield's 14-yard run late in the third quarter and Dylan Mulder's 42-yard field goal with 13:41 remaining.
The game was delayed 57 minutes by rain with 9:13 remaining in regulation. Brown fumbled at his own 44 with 5:21 left, but Mulder missed a 27-yard field-goal try to give the Bears new life. They drove as far as the Eagles' 38, but Chris Moller missed a desperation 60-yard field-goal try as time expired.
"We had some first-game jitters," Brown said. "At some point in the game, everybody had a misstep, a miscommunication or something. We've just got to be much better the rest of the season."
The new spread attack looked potent in the opening series, as the Bears drove 75 yards in 13 plays for a touchdown. Council accounted for 77 yards on the drive, including three passes to slot receiver Ricky Fisk and a 23-yard run. Brown finished it off with a 3-yard run.
Eastern Michigan scored the next 21 points with the aid of some Morgan State special teams breakdown. The Eagles recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown and also blocked a field-goal attempt.
"That's 10 points right there," Hull said. "We've got to find out where those breakdowns were and we've got to get that fixed for next week."