BALTIMORE – Chris Miller split the uprights on a 27-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to lead Morgan State to a 24-23 win over North Carolina A&T in MEAC football action at Hughes Stadium on Saturday.
Miller’s field goal marked the second straight season the Bears have defeated the Aggies in the final seconds. A year ago, Morgan State quarterback Robert Council found receiver Andrew King in the back of the end zone for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds remaining as the Bears escaped Aggie Stadium with a 21-18 win.
“It was a heartbreaking loss…again,” said A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “We can’t win close ballgames. That’s got to get fixed.”
After the second of two consecutive 38-yard field goals by freshman Cody Jones, the Aggies (5-4, 2-4 MEAC) held a 23-14 lead with 8:49 remaining in the game. The score was setup by a D’Vonte Grant interception of Council that was returned to the MSU 21-yard line. Morgan State head coach Donald Hill-Eley decided to turn to backup quarterback Seth Higgins following the Council pick.
Similar to Council in the first half, Higgins had success running the ball on quarterback draws and scrambles. Higgins rushed four times for 34 yards on his first drive and was aided by a 15-yard pass interference call Ayodeji Olatoye. It all led to Higgins throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass Antonio Jefferson to put the Bears to within two at 23-21.
A&T went three-and-out on its next drive, giving Higgins and the resurgent Bears offense the ball back with 4 ½ minutes to play. Three plays later, the Bears were faced with a 4th-and-2 from the A&T 46. Ther corner decided to play off of Bears receiver Tubotein Taylor. It allowed to Taylor to do a little curl route right in front of the first down marker. Higgins dumped the ball off to him, giving the Bears (4-6, 4-2 MEAC) a crucial conversion.
“That was so critical,” said Broadway about the 4th-and-2. “If we stop them there, the game’s over. We played way too far off and practically gave them the first down.”
Higgins’ legs eventually moved the Bears to the A&T 11 before the Bears essentially ran three straight running plays to set up Miller’s game-winning kick.
“They did the same things. They were pretty much the same guy,” said Broadway about the two quarterbacks MSU played on Saturday. “They didn’t change anything so to speak. They hurt us with some quarterback draws, but we got handle on that for the most part.”
Council rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries but had 82 yards on 10 carries in the first half. Higgins finished with 48 yards on 10 carries. But it wasn’t the Bears’ ability to run the ball with their quarterbacks that bothered Broadway as much as A&T’s ability to take themselves out of scoring opportunities.
On two separate occasions the Aggies moved the ball inside the MSU 15 and came away with no points. Even on drives where they scored field goals, the possessions were slowed down by penalties.The Aggies committed nine penalties for 92 yards.
“We’re not a very good football team when we do things like that,” said Broadway. “Unfortunately, that’s kind of become our MO. We knock ourselves out of the red zone with penalties.”
Tarik Cohen led the Aggies with 185 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries. Cohen tied the game at 7 with a nifty 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. The Bears answered that with an 8-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard Council touchdown run. The Aggies took over the ball with 53 seconds remaining in the half and were able to score as time expired on Jones’ 29-yard field goal.
The Aggies return home for their final two games, a Nov. 16 tilt against Savannah State at 1 p.m., and their annual rivalry game against N.C. Central on Nov. 23 at 1 p.m.