Junior quarterback Seth Higgins (Edgewood) combined for 246 passing and rushing yards and two touchdowns, and junior middle linebacker Cody Acker returned an interception 19 yards for a score in Morgan State’s 34-21 win against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe Florida A&M on Saturday. But another factor (or two) in the team’s first victory of the year involved turnovers and penalties.
The Bears (1-5, 1-1 MEAC) did not turn the ball over against the Rattlers (1-4, 0-1), the first time this season the team did not give the ball away. The performance followed a four-turnover showing in a 27-21 loss to Norfolk State on Sept. 28.
Asked Tuesday how Morgan State was able to protect the football, coach Donald Hill-Eley said: “Probably about 30 sprints on Sunday [after the loss to Norfolk State]. Sometimes, you can talk to them, but every now and then, you’ve got to light the fire. We continue to tell them, ‘Protect the ball, protect the ball, protect the ball.’ Now you bring attention to it with instruction and practice. Then sometimes the rubber’s got to meet the road on these kids. They have to be made important to them, and they had a great conditioning session that Sunday after turning the ball over.”
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The Bears also trimmed down their penalty totals. Although they had 81 yards in infractions, they were flagged just five times, which tied a season low set in a 58-17 loss to Western Kentucky on Sept. 21.
Hill-Eley had a ready explanation for the reduction in penalties, too.
“Again, about 30 sprints on Sunday,” he said. “Sometimes, you have to create the urgency. You can talk to them until you’re blue in the face, but sometimes you have to bring attention to it and sometimes there have to be repercussions because it’s just hurting your team.”