Saturday, October 22, 2016

Homecoming heartbreak for Morgan, NCCU pulls away 21-17

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Morgan State had it in the palm of their hands.

But North Carolina Central had the answer when needed when backup quarterback Naiil Ramadan connected with Jalen Wilkes on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 3:59 left in their 21-17 win over the Bears at Hughes Stadium during Homecoming. This marked the Bears' second straight homecoming loss.

Morgan State head coach Fred T. Farrier summarized the loss.

"We got to find a way to finish a game and play 60 minutes," said Farrier. "Whether it's DeAndre [Harris] or Chris [Andrews] at quarterback, we can't turn the ball over. We can't make mistakes in critical situations against a great football team. We just made too many mistakes."

It didn't take long for NCCU (6-2, 5-0 MEAC) to get on the board as Malcolm Bell found a wide open Lavontis Smith for a 38-yard touchdown pass with 13:15 left. That put the Eagles up 7-0.

On the Bears' 1st possession, Chris Andrews was intercepted by Reggie Hunter who returned it to the Bears' 20. Four plays later, Dorrel McClain ran the ball into the end zone from two yards out with 10:31 left. It helped extend the Eagles' advantage to 14-0. That was one of three MSU turnovers in this game.

MSU answered back when Andrews completed a 12-yard TD pass to Ricky Fisk with 5:02 left in the 1st quarter. The extra point by Alex Raya cut the deficit to 14-7.

The Bears capitalized on a fumbled punt by NCCU's Mike Jones that was recovered by MSU's Ian McBorrough. One play later, Eric Harrell, who ran for a career high 121 yards on the day, recorded a seven yard TD run. With the extra point, the game was tied at 14 with 5:45 left in the second quarter.

The next possession by NCCU, quarterback Malcolm Bell was hit by safety Darius Johnson and fumbled the ball. Cornerback Delonta Hall recovered it at the NCCU 38 with 3:08 left in 2nd quarter. Bell was helped off the field with a possible concussion. But the turnover amounted into zero points for the Bears as Raya's 54-yard field goal attempt was blocked by NCCU's Alden McClellon.

NCCU's backup quarterback Naiil Ramadan was inserted into the ballgame and had his first pass attempt intercepted by Malachi Washington and returned to the NCCU 29. Raya ended up converting a 40-yard field goal at the halftime gun to give the Bears a 17-14 lead.

Not much happened in the second half. But the gusting winds determined a lot in this game. It came down to a short 18-yard punt into the 25-35 mile per hour wind.

Antonio Brown forced a fumble by DeAndre Harris that was recovered by Nolan Corpening at the NCCU 41 with 2:22 left.

Morgan State (2-4, 2-2 MEAC) stopped the Eagles on the ensuing drive. Then on the Bears' drive, Harris' pass was intercepted by Reggie Hunter at the MSU 41 with 22 seconds left to put the game away.

"We got to make sure our kids understand, game plan wise, where their eyes need to be in terms of what we're throwing and where the ball should go at times," Farrier said about taking care of the football. "Fumbles... we do a ball security circuit every day and we got to make sure those guys understand the importance of that. We got to continue to emphasize that as coaches."

Morgan State will attempt to improve on their performance next week as they hit the road to take on Norfolk State.



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