BALTIMORE—The Delaware State University (DSU) defense stopped the Morgan State Bears on a fourth-down play inside of the DSU Hornets’ territory to hold off the Bears 28-23 at Hughes Stadium Oct. 25 in front of an ESPNU audience in Baltimore, Md.

After closing to within six points with just over seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bears stopped the Hornets and got the ball back but were unable to score on their last possession of the game.

The Bears came into this nationally televised match-up with the Delaware State Hornets on a two-game losing streak. The Bears lost their last two games by a combined total of five points and two plays, the last being a 21-20 loss at Howard Oct. 20. The losing slump is now at three straight games.

Morgan State (3-5 overall, 2-3 MEAC) got on the board early in the first quarter when redshirt sophomore quarterback Robert Council scrambled, running 41 yards for a touchdown. The point after touchdown by senior kicker Earvin Gonzalez gave the Bears a 7-0 lead with 10:50 left.

The Hornets finally got on the board in the second quarter. The duo of redshirt sophomore quarterback Nick Elko and redshirt sophomore Travis Tarpley struck when Elko floated a four-yard touchdown pass to Tarpley on a corner route with 13:10 remaining. Sophomore kicker Mitchell Ward’s extra point tied the game at 7.

Elko and Tarpley caused major problems for the Bears defense all night long. At one point, Elko completed a Delaware State-record 17 consecutive passes. Elko was 33 of 43 for 398 yards and two touchdowns on the night. Tarpley finished with a game-high 12 catches for 143 yards, including a pair of touchdowns.

“He (Elko) was doing a good job of throwing off of leverage and disguising them some,” said MSU head coach Donald Hill-Eley. “But we never could really get him off-balance. We had a couple of blown coverages in there. Anytime you get a guy like that who can get comfortable, with the receivers that he has… he just took advantage of us.”

Redshirt senior Tyrone Hendrix provided an immediate answer for the Bears when he broke out a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 12:56 left. Gonzalez’ extra point gave the Bears a 14-7 advantage.

“It was just what we practiced,” said Hendrix. “It was perfect blocking. I didn’t have to do anything but run.”

The Hornets tied the game up at 14 when the connection of Elko and Tarpley struck again. This time, it was from 13 yards out when Elko found a wide-open Tarpley on a fourth and 4 corner route with 9:30 left.

DSU (5-3 overall, 4-1 MEAC) took the lead 17-14 on a 31-yard field goal by Ward with 3:51 left. But it could have been worse as a 13-yard TD play from Elko to Justin Wilson was reversed when the officials ruled Wilson’s feet out of bounds.

Ward added to the Hornet’s lead at the half when he converted a 24-yard field goal. The Hornets went into the intermission with a 20-14 lead.

After half-time, DSU extended the lead to 28-14 with 8:56 left on a 3-yard touchdown run by Nagee Jackson. The Hornets converted the two-point conversion on a pass from Elko to Josh Bailey.

The Bears offense finally woke up when Council ran the ball into the end zone from 5 yards out. However, Gonzalez’ extra point attempt sailed wide left. The Bears cut the deficit to 28-20 with 5:02 left in the third quarter.

Council left the game with an injury with 25.2 seconds left in the third quarter following a sack by the Hornets’ Davon Moore. Seth Higgins had to step in for Council.

Council completed 13 of 19 passes for only 68 yards, but he ran for 46 yards and two touchdowns on the night.

MSU’s defense came through with 11:43 left in the fourth quarter by stopping the Hornets on downs.

That eventually led to Gonzalez’ 38-yard field goal attempt that bounced off the right upright and just fell in with 7:04 remaining in regulation to draw the Bears within 28-23.

The Bears were able to stop DSU and get the ball back for what would be their last possession. But on a fourth and 10 play from the Hornets’ 31, Higgins was flushed out of the pocket, ran for five yards before he was forced out of bounds at the 26, effectively ending the night for the Bears.

Morgan State hosts Bethune-Cookman on Senior Day in their last home game of the season on Nov. 3 at 1 p.m. in Hughes Stadium.

Senior running back Travis Davidson finished with 82 yards on 21 carries and became the school’s No. 10 all-time leading rusher with 1,537 yards.

Hendrix joins Marco Kornegay (1986) and Maurice Burton (1980) for the longest kickoff return for a touchdown in school history.

Earvin Gonzalez had a string of 22 consecutive, successful points after touchdown kicks snapped when he missed an extra point with 6:02 left to go in the third quarter.

Elandon Roberts recorded a game-high 16 tackles.

Christopher Robinson collected his sixth sack of the season.

Seth Higgins finished the game having completed 4 of 8 passes for 67 yards and 18 yards rushing.

Keith Henry

Special to the AFRO