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Morgan State's pass offense could thrive against North Carolina Central

Morgan State’s aerial attack has been grounded for most of the season. But that unit could find success against this Saturday’s opponent.

North Carolina Central (3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) is ranked 11th among the 11 pass defenses in the league. Opponents have averaged 271.0 yards and scored 11 touchdowns through the air against the Eagles, who are also last in the league in sacks with seven.

On the flipside, the Bears (1-5, 1-1) have struggled mightily thus far, ranking 10th in pass offense with a 122.5-yard average and just seven scores. But could Saturday be the right time for the unit to air it out?

“We go in every week and want to promote a balanced attack,” coach Donald Hill-Eley said Tuesday. “Just like everything else, you see if they fixed it, and if they fixed it, you go to something else. It’s still about those players out there on the field. You have to do what’s working.”

North Carolina Central surrendered 232 rushing yards in a 44-3 loss to South Carolina State last Thursday, but coach Dwayne Foster said improving the pass defense has been a point of emphasis.

“We certainly have to get better,” he said Tuesday. “We’ve got to get our guys to grow up even more and just improve from week to week. We realize that we have to get better and that’s going to come from our work week and through our preparation. You better believe teams are going to try to attack in that way. At the same time, we realize that, and we have to really work hard to make sure that we’re in the right place at the right time and have better fits than we’ve had and find ways to get to the quarterback and make him uncomfortable.”

As poorly as the Eagles have been in pass defense, they are tied for second in the conference in interceptions with nine. Leading the way is freshman cornerback Michael Jones, a Baltimore native and Milford Mill graduate who has intercepted four passes.

“Mike’s a good football player,” Foster said. “He’s done some outstanding things this season. At the same time, he is a freshman and has had some freshman mistakes. So while he’s made those big plays, there have been times he hasn’t been in the right place. But we’re excited with his improvement from week to week. When we recruited him, we knew he had some talent and the ability to come in and potentially be an impact player. It was just a matter of him picking up the scheme, which he has done, and learning and being physical.”

Hill-Eley is well aware of Jones’ impact, noting that the 5-foot-9, 175-pound rookie is a candidate for the Jerry Rice Award, which is given to the top first-year player in the Football Championship Subdivision.

“Anytime you’ve got a freshman to come in and play, he’s adding to the position,” Hill-Eley said. “He’s got great football awareness in his coverages and he’s also a fit guy in the box. He’s doing a great job for those guys.”

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