BALTIMORE – For the first time in school history Morgan State hosted a nationally televised prime time contest Thursday night in the frigid confines of Hughes Stadium. On a soggy evening the Bears improved to 5-1 with a 14-7 win over Howard giving them a share of first place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
After losing to Akron in the season opener the Bears have not lost to an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision opponent this year. This is first time since 1979 that Morgan has won five of their first six to open the season when they won the conference and lost to Alabama A&M in the first round of the Division II playoffs.
The “Battle of the Beltway” has become one of the fiercest rivalries in Black College Football with the previous four games decided in overtime. This one appeared to be heading in that direction until Morgan’s defense thwarted a final drive late in the fourth quarter.
Winning with defense has been the formula for Morgan’s success this year. In the five victories they are yielding just 9.6 points per game and none of the FCS division opponents have scored more than 13 points against them.
However, the hibernating Bears offense woke from a season long slumber in the first half which catapulted them to victory. Quarterback Carlton Jackson opened the game on fire with two first half touchdown passes that put Howard in a hole they were not able to climb out of. After opening the contest on fire Jackson cooled off and finished 10 of 28 passing for 150 yards and an interception.
He connected with you tube legend Edwin Baptiste for an acrobatic 31 yard catch in the back of the endzone that should have earned him a second ESPN top plays nomination in as many years late in first quarter to give them the lead for good. Just prior to halftime Morgan took advantage of a Howard turnover thanks to Jackson’s best two passes of the season.
Jackson found Edward Morton-Green streaking down the near sideline for 39 yards setting up first and goal at the five yard line. On the next play the emerging weapon Lamont Bryant hauled in his final scoring pass of the evening and the Bears took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
Then as the temperatures dropped so did Jackson’s accuracy in the third quarter. Howard’s lone touchdown was set up by freshman Keith Pough’s first interception which set them up deep in Morgan’s territory. Floyd Haigler made the Bears pay by finding Parker Watson with a three yard touchdown pass that closed the gap to seven.
Morgan turned to senior running back Devan James to move the chains from then on. The all-MEAC tailback has been nursing an abdominal injury all season and finally showed the explosiveness and power that has him on the verge of becoming their all-time leading rusher. On 22 carries he rushed for 103 yards leaving him just 673 yards shy of the top spot in school history.
Howard appeared set to send this game into overtime for a fifth consecutive year. However, with the Bison driving deep in Morgan territory Richard Wilson intercepted Haigler to preserve the win.