Washington, DC—October 20—Morgan State failed on a game-tying PAT attempt that allowed Howard University to escape with a 21-20 win over Morgan State in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference before an overflow homecoming crowd of 10, 305 in Greene Stadium.
Trailing 21-14, the Bears (3-4, 2-2 in the MEAC) rallied and made things interesting when they drove 89 yards in nine plays to get within one on a 35-yard gallop by Morgan State quarterback Robert Council. From there, Morgan State set up the potential conversion.
Morgan State's Robert Miranda snapped the ball, but it was slightly over the head of the holder Saquan Moody, who reached for it. But it was tipped by the placekicker Earvin Gonzalez. In an attempt to salvage the play, Gonzalez attempted to pass for the two-point conversion but it was intercepted by junior linebacker Tabrian Resby.
"In all of our wins, special teams have shown up in a big way," said Howard Coach Gary Harrell, in his second year at the helm. "We were fortunate that Morgan State missed that snap at the end. We are trying to get away from these kinds of wins; we want to win convincingly."
The Bison (5-2, 4-1 in the MEAC) took over on downs and ran out the clock to snap a seven-game losing streak to Morgan State.
The game was one of swings and momentum changes. The Bears got off to the early start by taking the opening kickoff and marching 72 yards in 12 plays for the game's first score. Travis Davidson capping off the drive with six-yard run with 9:46 left in the first quarter.
With the Howard offense unable to get untracked, Morgan State displayed more consistency on offense and was able to move the ball effectively at time. The Bears had chances to take control of the game, but the Bison defense remained undaunted and was able to hold serve through most of the first half, including an important goal-line stand.
"We just wanted to make sure that the defense played strong and not give up any more points," said Resby. "We talked about keeping the game within striking distance until the offense came around."
Two possessions later, Howard came up with what would prove to be a momentum changer. Junior reserve quarterback Randy Liggins relieved sophomore starter Greg McGhee and put together a much-needed drive of 62 yard in nine plays that was capped off with a 17-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Jonathan Booker. That deadlocked the game at 7-7 at the half.
"We feed off of momentum," said Leffall, who has rushed for over 100 yards in seven of the last eight games in which he has played, dating back to last season. "To score just before the half was a big boost for us going into the locker room."
Energized by the swing in momentum, Howard appeared to take control in the second half when McGhee engineered a 14-play, 80-yard scoring drive that he finished off with a one-yard plunge. The Bison added another score five minutes later, courtesy of another sterling special teams play. Freshman Devin Rollins blocked a Gonzalez punt attempt that came out of the end zone to the Morgan State 16-yard line where Howard took over. It took the Bison two plays with senior running back Terrence Leffall scoring from four yards out to make it 21-7, Howard with 1:04 left in the third quarter.
"Credit goes to special teams coach Bobby Jones," acknowledged Harrell. "There is a reason we have had the success this season on special teams."
But Morgan State did not quit. First, the Bears got a five-yard TD run from Davidson, his second of the game to cut the deficit to 21-14 with plenty of time still left in the contest.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Bears turned to Council for some heroics and he delivered, engineering a nine-play, 89-yard drive that he capped off with a 35-yard jaunt that set up the potential game-tying score. During the drive, Council, a red-shirt sophomore, converted on two third and longs and a fourth down to keep drives alive.
Leffall finished with 134 yards on 26 carries, marking the third time that he has reached that mark this season. McGhee added 44 yards on 10 carries as the Bison amassed 259 yards on the ground.
Davidson led the Bears with 104 yards and two scores while Council was 11 of 20 for 131 yards.
Defensively, the Bison got a sterling performance from Resby, who recorded 13 tackles, a sack and two tackles for losses. Senior linebackers Anthony Whitlow and Keith Pough each had 10 tackles and junior safety Julien David chipped with 9 tackles, a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble.
"This was a must win, not only because it was homecoming, but because it is an MEAC game," explained Harrell. "Our goal is to finish these last five games 5-0, so this is a good start."