Baltimore, MD- James Meade nailed a 23-yard field goal in overtime to lift Morgan State to a 36-33 win over Howard University in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before 14,987 at Hughes Stadium.
Meade's game winner was set up during the Bears' possession in the extra period following six straight running plays that got the ball down to the Howard six-yard line. After Howard called a timeout to "freeze" him, the 5-9 junior from Upper Marlboro, MD, split the uprights and the record homecoming erupted in celebration.
The Bison, who had twice rallied from 10 points down twice, saw their opportunity wasted with their possession in overtime. After rushing for almost 200 yards, they were only able to gain four yards and were forced to attempt a 39-yard field goal. Dennis Wiehberg, who two weeks ago hit the game winner over Winston-Salem State, saw this one go wide left.
"We ran the ball well against them during regulation," said Howard quarterback Brian Johnson. "But give Morgan State credit. They came up with a great stand (in overtime)."
That opened the door for Meade's kick.
"We didn't have a great game kicking and we left six points on the field," lamented a disappointed Howard head coach Carey Bailey. "We also gave up some big plays on the defensive side."
Morgan State (4-3 overall, 3-1 in the MEAC) had taken a 33-23 lead midway through the fourth quarter on a 35-yard touchdown run by Devan James (19 carries, 73 yards, 1 TD).
Then Howard (2-4 overall, 0-3) rallied on a 21-yard field goal by Wiehberg and a 12-yard TD pass from Brian Johnson to Jarahn Williams to send the game into the extra period.
"It shows that we have the resiliency, but we have got to be able to finish," said Bailey.
The Bears, who had been outscored 35-7 in the first quarter this season, surprised the Bison by taking a 10-0 lead six minutes into the game. Byron Selby (11 of 20, 216 yards, 1 TD) and Chad Simpson hooked up for an 84-yard screen pass and Meade hit the first of three field goals-this one from 38 yards out-to give Morgan State the advantage.
The Bison re-grouped and scored 17 straight points to take a 17-10 lead following a Johnson 10-yard run up the middle, a 46-yard jaunt by Karlos Whittaker (9 carries, 71 yards, 1 TD) and a 34-yard field goal by Wiehberg.
Morgan State answered when Simpson scored from two yards out. Howard countered when Johnson connected with Michael Harper from 32 yards out to take a brief 23-17 lead before Morgan State answered on a two-yard pass from Mario Melton to Justin Lawrence.
The Bison defense limited the Bears running game to 154 yards rushing, almost 100 under their average. Simpson, who came into the game ranked among the leaders in the nation in rushing, was held to 15 yards on 13 carries before leaving the game with an injury. Howard proved to be effective against the run, but the secondary was victimized after losing both starting cornerbacks.
"It was huge losing both starting corners," explained Bailey. "But we still needed guys to step up and they did. They did for the most part but we had some mental breakdowns."
It was Meade again who proved to be a factor as he hit 43-yard field goal to give the Bears a 26-23 advantage at halftime.
Neither team was able to generate much offense in a fast-moving third quarter, but Morgan State appeared to all but put it away on James' TD run.
Lost in the disappointing defeat was the performance of the offensive line, which helped the Bison roll up almost 200 yards on the ground against a Morgan State defense that was limiting opponents to 88 yards per game on the ground, which ranked among the nation's best. The chief beneficiaries of their efforts were junior running backs Terry Perry and Alexander. Perry rushed for a career-high 117 yards on 25 carries while Whittaker chipped in with 71 on nine carries.
"I keep saying that it all starts up front with us," said Perry, who has rushed for 283 yards in the past three games. "They are getting better and better each week."
GAME NOTES: Martin Decembert, who has emerged as the team's top special teams player, returned three kickoffs for 103 yards, including a career-best 61 yarder that set up the team's first score while also collecting 5 tackles on kick coverage...the Bison run defense has allowed only one runner to reach 100 yards (Philip Sylvester of FAMU) and is limiting runners to 3.2 yard per rush...Rudy Hardie continues to show why he is a pre-season All American and all-conference candidate...the 6-2, 270-pound senior defensive end from Hartford, CT, was a nightmare for the Bears' offensive line all day...he finished with 7 solos, 2 assists and 3.5 tackles for losses despite being double-teamed for most of the day...the linebacking corps is also continuing to play well...Robert Dowdy (team-high 13 tackles), Endor Cooper (9 tackles) and Robert Parker (8 tackles) all contributed to the defense...the Bison were forced to play with Decembert and Brandon Bufford at the corners after starters Thomas Claiborn (shoulder) and Rickey Jackson (leg injury) both went out and did not return...Jarahn Williams kept his streak alive of scoring a TD in every game this season...he now has 8, a career high...
NEXT UP: Howard next plays North Carolina A&T on Saturday for homecoming...The Aggies, who were shut out by Delaware State, 27-0 at home on Saturday, have lost 23 in a row. Morgan State will try to keep its title hopes alive when it travels to Dover, DE to take on the Hornets of Delaware State next Saturday.