By NICK BEDFORD
Spokesman Staff Writer
On a chilly November day at Hughes Stadium, the Morgan State Bears battled the Hampton Pirates in their final game of the season. The Bears lost in a close one, with 27-17 to end their season on a six game losing streak, Morgan’s longest losing streak since 1996. The Bears just couldn’t quite hold on against Hampton in a competitive game throughout all four quarters.
Before the game Tyrone Hendrix (senior WR) emphasized the Bears need to play a full 60 minutes of football to be successful against Hampton. “We’ve got to play a full 60 minutes of football, and we haven’t done that since the A&T game,” said Hendrix.
The Bears had costly penalties on defense that extended some of Hamptons drives particularly in the first quarter. After forcing Hampton into a second and long on the Bears 33 yard line, a personal foul penalty was called against the defense giving Hampton a first and goal at the Bears 10 yard line. The Pirates went on to score the first touchdown of the game and led 7-0.
The Bears fought back in the second quarter taking advantage of an interception by Bears sophomore defensive back Nathan Ayers on Hampton’s 31yard line, returned eight yards to the 23 yard line of the Pirates. Bears quarterback Robert Council then led the Bears on a five play 23 yard drive ending with a Brian Mann two yard rushing touchdown to tie the game.
On the ensuing kick-off, Hampton player Antwon Chisholm burst for a 47 yard return setting up his team in great field position. The Pirates then went on to score a touchdown on a 7 play 49 yard drive helped by three penalties by the Bears defense, making the score 14-7. On the next drive by the Bears they reached the red zone of the Pirates only to fumble on the 18 yard line recovered by Hampton. That diminished an 11 play 58 yard drive by the charging Bears offense. The Bears defense continued to step up after the turn over. Hampton dashed to the Bears six yard line before a pass was intercepted in the end zone by Bears defensive back Joe Rankin, his fifth team leading of the season. The score at halftime stood, Hampton 14, Morgan State 7.
The Bears defense got off to a great start in the second half, intercepting Hampton’s quarterback for the second time. The Bears offense could not capitalize as they went three and out on their drive after the turnover. After back to back three and outs by both teams, the Bears executed sharply on their next drive ending with a 33 yard touchdown pass to Chris Flowers from quarterback, Robert Council to tie up the game.
Hamptons two headed rushing attack led by running backs Jeremiah Schwartz and Christopher Dukes seemed to just take over the game on their next offensive possession. They rushed for a combined 51 yards on the possession ending with a one yard touchdown scamper by Schwartz. Morgan State again fought back tacking on a field goal at the end of the third quarter bringing the score to 20-17 entering the last quarter of play.
At the start of the fourth quarter both teams defenses stepped up, forcing the other offense to punt on their first possessions. With 10:44 left in the game, Hampton put together a 6 play 41 yard drive capped off by a 16 yard touchdown run by Dukes giving the Pirates a 10 point lead with 8:44 remaining all but sealing the game in Hughes Stadium. The Bears never scored again, and Hampton went on to beat the Bears 27-17 in a close one.
The Bears defense allowed two 100 yard rushing performances; one to Hampton’s Jeremiah Schwartz who rushed for 123 yards on 29 carries and another to Christopher Dukes. Dukes ran the ball 16 times for 112 yards. Despite the loss Morgan State’s offense played efficiently totaling 319 yards on offence, with Council leading the way with 140 yards passing through the air. Senior running back Travis Davidson finished the game with 81 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The Bears defense held up well throughout the game against the Pirates forcing three interceptions and forcing two fumbles. At the end of the day, Hampton executed better when needed despite a valiant effort by Morgan State. Morgan can look at the positives from this game and take them into next season as they look to improve in all three phases of the game.
“It’s been a whole year of mistakes coming at the wrong time,” said Bears head coach Donald Hill-Eley to Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Seidel following the tough loss. “You have to find ways to adjust it and fix it,” he added.
The Bears lost their 6 straight games by a combined 31 points. They have been in all of their close games but just have not been able to finish. The Bears have nothing to hang their head about. They have a lot of young talent on their roster. Despite losing 21 seniors this year to graduation, the Bears have a bright side. Seasons like this build character, and push players to be better than a 3-8 team. Look for the Morgan State Bears to bounce back next season in 2013 to compete in the MEAC.