Morgan State celebrated its Sesquicentennial 150th Homecoming with a 48-28 victory over Savannah State at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore Maryland.
For a win-less team, getting a victory on homecoming is the best consolation prize. Early on it looked like the Bears were going to struggle as Orange Tigers running back Uriah Oliver took a swing pass from D’Vonn Gibson 83 yards to the house. Rather than roll over, the Bears responded with 42 unanswered points.
Former Wheeler High School prep star Elijah Staley led the Bears on a 10-play, 75-yard drive to tie the score. The 6-foot 7-inch quarterback hit sophomore wide receiver Manasseh Bailey with a strike to set up a 1-yard plunge by senior running back Eric Harrell.
Staley, a red-shirt junior transfer, finished the game with 220 yards passing, 3 touchdown passes, and no interceptions.
The Bears’ defense fed off the success of the offense. Six Morgan State defenders sacked the Orange Tigers quarterbacks a total of seven times for a loss of 45 yards. Morgan also won the turnover battle with a forced fumble and an interception.
Savannah State’s fumble came immediately after the Bears tied the score. Gibbons was stripped at the 25-yard line where Bears defensive end George Ramos fell on it. Staley and the offense capitalized on the miscue right away with a 5-yard run by Harrell followed by a 21-yard touchdown pass to Amonta Poteat.
Miscues were the order of the day in the first half for the Orange Tigers. Pressure from the Bears’ defense kept the Orange Tigers’ offense bottled up. Morgan’s pressure extended to the special teams as well. Bailey, who had a big catch to set up the first score, arrived to block the punt before Giovanni Lugo could get the ball away. Senior wide receiver Deontaye White scooped up the ball for the Bears and raced into the endzone for a 21-7 lead.
After the two assists, Bailey managed to score a touchdown of his own. On third-and-10, Staley found the sophomore along the MSU sideline behind the defender at the SSU 25-yard line. After a slight bobble, he raced untouched for the score. The team’s leading receiver finished with a game-high 116 yards on 5 receptions.
When Bailey wasn’t stretching the field, running backs Harrell and Herb Walker, Jr. were picking up the tough yards on the ground. Harrell and Walker each rushed for over 110 yards and a touchdown to keep the Orange Tigers’ defense honest.
“The run game, which had been struggling recently, we finally just trusted the process, trusted what the coaches were saying, and believed in what was going on,” said Staley. “And I think we had two running backs over 100 yards. That’s big time. It’s hard to beat a team when you have two running backs over 100 yards.”
The last nail in the coffin was hammered in on the ensuing kick-off. Bears special team-er Terry Harris knocked the ball out of Elijah Shah’s arms at the SSU 9-yard line. The ball bounced backward towards the goal line where Maurice Lewis picked it up and ran it into the end zone for another Morgan State touchdown.
Savannah State managed to score three touchdowns in the second half. David Handler replaced Gibbons for good in the fourth and threw two touchdown passes. His first touchdown pass was an eye-opener. The pass bounced off the shoulder pads of Handler’s initial target and sophomore wide receiver Charles Barnes plucked it out of the air and raced into the end zone for a 41-yard touchdown.
Handler tossed a 3-yard pass to Derek Kirkland for the Orange Tigers final touchdown but the game had been over for some time.
Savannah State stays on the road next week. They head east to play Charleston Southern at 6 p.m
All photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports