By Jeff Seidel, Special to The Baltimore Sun
6:23 PM EDT, September 17, 2011
Morgan State safety Reshaude Miller made a play that didn't score or set up any points.
But it prevented points and helped turn around Saturday's game against Robert Morris.
Miller made a leaping one-handed interception that stopped the Colonials from taking a possible 10-point lead in the first half. That seemed to awaken the sluggish Bears, and they went on to make just enough well-timed big plays to escape with a 13-12 victory over Robert Morris at Hughes Stadium.
The victory ended a six-game losing streak for Morgan State (1-2), which dropped its final four games of last season.
The Bears were looking for something to give them a lift in this game, after opening the season with lopsided losses to Towson (42-3) and Bowling Green (58-13). Big plays were missing then, but they proved helpful on Saturday.
"[If] we're living off big plays, we've sure been starving here these last couple of weeks," Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said."It's about big plays. You have to execute them. For the last couple of weeks, we hadn't been getting those big plays."
Perhaps the most critical play came courtesy of Robert Morris (0-3). The Colonials wasted a chance to send the game into overtime when kicker Greg Langer missed the extra point after a touchdown with 1:57 left in the fourth quarter.
But Miller gave the Bears their first big lift. Robert Morris used an 11-play drive on its first possession to take a 3-0 lead. The Colonials marched to the Morgan State 2-yard line on another long drive in the second quarter.
Quarterback Jeff Sinclair threw a pass into the front of the end zone on second-and-goal. Miller, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound safety, leaped high in the air to catch it with one hand and give the Bears a touchback.
"I was trying to knock it down," Miller said. "But once it got there, it just stuck. I got a break. That's the kind of play we want. That's the thing we're looking for — turnarounds."
That certainly proved to be a turnaround. Instead of trailing by two scores late in the first half, Morgan State remained down by three. Miller's interception also seemed to deflate the Colonials.
"That was a killer," Sinclair said.
The Bears' big plays continued after that. On the next Robert Morris possession, Morgan State linebacker Cody Acker made an interception deep in Colonials territory that set up Abraham Mercado's game-tying 40-yard field goal with 26 seconds left in the half.
Morgan State quarterback Robert Council completed only four passes, but one of them was a 56-yard touchdown to Tyrone Hendrix early in the third quarter. Langer had kicked a 41-yard field goal for a 6-3 Robert Morris lead on the first drive of the second half, but Council made a perfect throw to Hendrix racing down the sideline just 88 seconds later to put the Bears up, 10-6.
"He just threw a good ball, and I just ran up under it," Hendrix said. "We were non-existent [on offense], to be honest. We've just got to be more consistent."
Council wound up getting sacked six times, but most of them were coverage sacks. The Colonials were trying to confuse the redshirt freshman with a variety of coverage looks, so the Bears began running the ball more in the second half.
With Travis Davidson (87 yards) leading the way, they had a 39-yard drive early in the fourth quarter, which ended with Mercado's 23-yard field goal to make it 13-6 with 10:56 left. Council sparked that drive with a 23-yard completion to Davidson.
Robert Morris used a fourth-quarter interception to set up its last touchdown drive. Sinclair threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Rickeem Jackson to cut the lead to 13-12 before Langer pulled his extra-point kick wide left, and the Bears escaped.
The Morgan State defense pitched in with the two interceptions, and the Bears also blitzed more in the second half, which slowed Sinclair and the Colonials' passing game. Linebackers Tierney Yates (six tackles, two sacks) Michael Dallas (nine tackles) and Allen Stephens (eight tackles, one sack) were particularly instrumental in stopping the Robert Morris offense.
"When one person makes the plays, it challenges everybody to make the plays," Yates said. "When one person is doing big plays, another person wants to compete and do bigger plays."
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