Conference play gets underway for the Morgan State Bears and the North Carolina A&T Aggies, who will play at Hughes Stadium Saturday night.
This week presents a challenge for The Bears, who play their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) game. Not only have they yet to win a game this season, but they also have yet to score a point. They’ve also struggled with protecting the football, particular first-year starting quarterback Elijah Staley with 4 interceptions. This weekend they are up against an Aggies defense that’s only giving up 11.3 points through the first three games, so if they are to break through it starts with the offense’s ability to limit turnovers.
Something that’s been overlooked in the offense’s struggles has been the Morgan defense. Aside from a 65-0 loss to Rutgers (who is in the Football Bowl Subdivision and a member of the Big Ten conference), the defense has been exceptional and kept the Bears in games despite their offensive problems (even in a 26-0 loss to Albany, Morgan held them to just 10 points at halftime and were in it midway into the second half).
Morgan’s front seven gets most of the recognition, with guys like Jai Franklin (preseason 2nd team All-MEAC selection) and Brandon Griffin (Week 1 MEAC Defensive Player of the Week), but the secondary has played better than many realize; they’re seventh in the FCS with just 126.7passing yards allowed per game. The defense will have to create turnovers and give their offense a short field to have a chance to win this game, but they’re capable of doing so.
For the Aggies, the season is going very accordingly. Preseason coaches polls predicted them finishing second in the conference, and as of right now they are one of the best teams in the MEAC with a 3-0 record.
Whereas Morgan struggles with turnovers on offense, the Aggies do a great job protecting the ball. They’re led by All-MEAC selection Lamar Raynard, who’s lived up to the preseason hype so far with 842 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns, one rushing score and no interceptions. In each of their three contests, they’ve had receivers eclipse 100 receiving yards, so it’ll be a case of “strength versus strength” against Morgan’s secondary.
The Aggies also have a defense of their own that’s playing well this season. Besides not allowing many points, they are also formidable against the pass; their 160 yards allowed through the air ranks 19th. They’re a very opportunistic unit, with nine takeaways through the first three games (something the Bears obviously struggle with), and they’ve also forced 28 tackles for a loss. They will have to keep things going this week if they want to walk out of Hughes Stadium unblemished.
This game on paper looks to be a game of matchups. The Bears and Aggies have different strengths that they will be looking to put to good use, and while their seasons are going in different directions, this game is no sure thing for either side. For the Aggies, the goal is to get out of here 4-0 and keep pace with Hampton University and North Carolina Central University, but all if Morgan’s offense can finally find their footing and their defense continues to play like it has, this game could be the spark plug they need to save their season.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.