A week ago, the Morgan State football team didn't seem to have a shot at the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. Now, the Bears are back in contention.
Morgan State’s 24-23 victory against North Carolina A&T on Saturday helped the team improve to 4-6 overall and 4-2 in the league. Coupled with a 27-24 loss by No. 18 Bethune-Cookman (8-2, 5-1) to Norfolk State, the Bears now trail the Wildcats and South Carolina State (7-3, 5-1) by one game in the conference standings.
“There’s still a lot of football to be played,” Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said Tuesday during the MEAC conference call. “There’s still a couple weeks of football to be played, and [the race for the league championship] exists more than it did before Bethune-Cookman lost to Norfolk. Bethune-Cookman’s a good team, and good teams respond to adversity. So I’m sure Coach [Brian] Jenkins understands what he has to do. He’s proven that year in and year out, and he’ll have his guys ready to play and they’ll fight to maintain their championship and everybody else will scratch and fight to try to get it.”
The Bears will not face Bethune-Cookman this season, but they can turn up the heat on the Wildcats by knocking off South Carolina State on Thursday night in Orangeburg, S.C.
Hill-Eley conceded that he wished the team had more time to study the Bulldogs, who have overcome a 0-2 start by winning seven of eight.
“With this caliber team that we’re facing, you need all the days that you can,” Hill-Eley said. “So there’s really no advantage to playing one of the top teams in the conference on a short week. Most coaches spend about 16 hours a day during the week trying to prepare and get things together and the players do their regular 20 hours, and now you’re talking about getting ready for a team with players committing eight hours of preparation and coaches working almost 20 just trying to make sure that their I’s are dotted and their T’s are crossed. It’s not a lot for a short week.
"But what we have benefitted [from] is the opportunity that [MEAC commissioner Dennis E. Thomas] and the conference have given us to play on a national platform. It helped us to jump to the No. 4 recruiting class, it puts us in homes and regions that we would never have this opportunity. So even if this game was played on a Tuesday or Wednesday, the benefit and longevity [added] to the program is much greater than what it takes away.”