The Morgan State football team may have escaped last Saturday with a 30-27 win against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe Hampton, but the defense’s inability to stop the run hasn’t avoided the spotlight.
That flaw was highlighted against the Pirates, who scored touchdowns on three runs of at last 31 yards. Three of Hampton’s four longest plays from scrimmage were rushes by junior running back Jorrian Washington (88 yards), senior running back Antwon Chisholm (58) and freshman fullback Marcus Hampton (31).
The Pirates’ long gains on the ground worried Bears coach Donald Hill-Eley.
“When you look at the game from this past week, they had [two] plays over 50 yards from the line of scrimmage — rushing plays,” Hill-Eley said Tuesday. “And then when you look at it and see three missed tackles, we’ve got to get better at the fundamentals of just tackling and doing different things that we can to stop the run. … That’s one of the things that we’ve been having trouble with the past couple weeks, stopping the guys in both halves. I think in the first half, Hampton had under 100 [rushing yards]. We’ve got to find ways to get guys to the point of attack, more hats to the ball to stop those runs.”
In its past four contests, Morgan State (3-6, 3-2 MEAC) has allowed three opposing players to rush for 100 yards. Along with Washington, Howard junior quarterback Greg McPhee ran for 122 yards and Florida A&M senior running back Al-Terek McBurse had 110 yards and a touchdown.
As a result, the Bears are ranked 10th out of 11 teams in the conference against the run, surrendering an average of 235.4 yards and 26 touchdowns. That does not appear to bode well this Saturday when North Carolina A&T (5-3, 2-3) visits Hughes Stadium.
The Aggies are averaging 173.0 yards on the ground and have 16 rushing touchdowns. Freshman running back Tarik Cohen ranks second in the MEAC in rushing (92.5 yards per game) and third in touchdowns (five).
Can Morgan State make some adjustments in its defensive schemes in time for Saturday’s game? Hill-Eley didn’t sound like the team was prepared to make any wholesale changes.
“At this point in the game, you can make some small schematic changes, but when you look at it, you’re seeing that it’s just coming down to the fundamentals of tackling, and we have guys there,” he said. “So you have to work on that part of it. You make some adjustments, but you continue to get try to get better with what you’re doing.”