Morgan State watched Bethune-Cookman start to unravel early in the second quarter of Saturday's Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchup even though the Wildcats had a three-point lead at the time.
After defensive back Dion Hanks was ejected for striking a Morgan State player, Wildcats coach Brian Jenkins was also kicked out of the game seconds later for berating the officials. The NCAA does not officially track ejections, but at least three NCAA representatives said Jenkins could be the first head football coach ever ejected from a game.
The Bears, however, missed three field-goal attempts, had two others blocked, and eventually fell to first-place Bethune-Cookman, 24-13, in front of an announced 2,187 at Hughes Stadium. Morgan State lost its fourth consecutive game and fell to 2-3 in the MEAC and 3-6 overall. Bethune-Cookman improved to 6-0 in the league and 7-2 overall.
"We just didn't take advantage of our opportunities," Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said. "The way to close teams out is to minimize mistakes. Our defense came out against a team that has been at the top of the nation with yardage and scoring and we were able to shut them down. Our defense played well."
Travis "Juice" Davidson, who entered the game as the MEAC's second-leading rusher with 794 yards, had 46 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown for the Bears. Isidore Jackson led Bethune-Cookman with 111 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
The Wildcats were penalized 13 times for 157 yards, while Morgan State had 197 yards of total offense.
In the first quarter, Morgan State defensive back Nathan Ayers (Dunbar) stripped quarterback Quentin Williams and recovered the ball on the 4-yard line. Davidson then ran off the right tackle for a touchdown on the next play and a Morgan State 7-0 lead with 9:23 left in the period.
The Wildcats then stayed mostly with the ground attack on the next drive and cut the margin to four on a 24-yard field goal by Sven Hurd. Bethune-Cookman's Dawud Lane, a Rutgers transfer, then picked off Robert Council at the the Bears' 8-yard line. Williams then found another Rutgers transfer, Eddie Poole, five plays later on a 5-yard pass in the corner of the end zone and the Wildcats led 10-7 with 14:55 left in the first half.
The Wildcats have an interception in 16 consecutive games.
With 12 minutes remaining in the half, Hanks and Jenkins were ejected within seconds of each other. However, the Bears failed to capitalize despite advancing to the Wildcats' 26 yard line.
"The ref threw a flag, and I questioned it," Jenkins said. "He didn't like the way I questioned it, so he threw another flag. He did what the rules say he needed to do. There are no hard feelings. I was OK with that. We were able to move on and let my coaching staff take over. We came away with a victory, so I'm good."
An interception by Darien Irby that was returned to the Wildcats' 35-yard line set up the game-tying field goal by Earvin Gonzalez from 32 yards as time expired in the first half. That was a quite a feat considering the Bears were outgained, 195-39, and had the ball for just 7:42 in the opening half.
"We planned and executed because we had seen it all week in practice," Irby said. "We got a couple of plays, but we missed a couple. We always want to come out and win. We're going to try and get these last two [games of the season]."
The Bears' Tyrone Hendrix fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and the Wildcats' Rashad Payne recovered on the 21-yard line. Five plays later, Brodrick Waters scored on a 6-yard run and Bethune-Cookman regained the lead, 17-10, with 12:59 remaining in the third quarter.
Morgan State's defense continued to contain the Wildcats. A 38-yard field goal by Gonzalez later cut the lead to 17-13 with 14:54 left in the game.
The Bears got another opportunity when Chris Robinson forced a fumble that was recovered by Calvin Fuller at the Wildcats' 46-yard line. However, a 33-yard field goal attempt by Gonzalez was short.
The Bears had a final chance to take the lead after getting the ball on their own 34 with 2:18 left in the game. However, the Wildcats stopped the Bears on four consecutive plays and Jackson ran 19 yards for the game's final score one play later.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun