Morgan State football bracing for clash with South Carolina State's top-ranked run defense

Whether juniors Seth Higgins (Edgewood) or Robert Council starts at quarterback for the Morgan State football team Thursday night, the offense may run into some difficulty running against South Carolina State.

The Bears (4-6 overall and 4-2 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) rank third in the league in rushing, averaging 182.3 yards. But the Bulldogs (7-3, 5-1) are permitting a conference-low 79.1 yards per game and 2.0 yards per carry.

Morgan State won’t abandon the running game, but coach Donald Hill-Eley said the team will have to craft a plan that can yield positive gains on the ground.

“If you know the wall is there, you don’t just always run to the wall,” he said Tuesday. “You’ve got to find a way to get around it or get over it. Running is a part of the game, and I’m quite sure we’ll try to find a way to run the football. They’re not only good in the run, but they’re good in the pass. That team has only given up 200 yards defensively. So when you look at that unit, you try to do what you do and get it to the point where it becomes your athletes versus their athletes and will versus will, and we’re hoping that the will is in our favor.”

Coastal Carolina senior running back Lorenzo Taliaferro rushed 25 times for 157 yards and one touchdown in a season-opening win against South Carolina State, but since then, no individual has gained 100 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs.

South Carolina State has historically featured a strong run defense, ranking first in the MEAC in 2009 and 2010 and second in 2006 and 2008. This year’s unit is reviving that practice, according to coach Buddy Pough.

“Our guys play hard,” he said Tuesday. “They’ve got a sense of purpose in that we don’t believe in giving up very many big plays. So you don’t see a whole lot of long runs against us, and if you do, it’s because something unusual happened. Most times, our guys cover up for each other very well. It’s one of those deals where South Carolina State has a tradition of strong run-style defending teams, and our guys have just bought into that tradition.”

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