Morgan State has dropped its first three games for the first time since 2002, the program’s first year under coach Donald Hill-Eley. It is a sobering start for a team eager to bounce back from last season’s 3-8 record, but Hill-Eley said the coaches are using the losing streak as a learning tool.
“You have to be honest with the young men,” he said Tuesday during a conference call arranged by the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. “When you go out every week, you’re preparing to win, and when you’re going out against the stark competition as we had in the first couple of games, you know that if you’re on all cylinders, you’ve got a chance. [You] point out the opportunities and gains that we’ve had in each contest, and you still have to try to shape a way [to say,] ‘Wait, this is how you win the game’ – whether it’s sharpening up your special teams as our special teams was down in the first two games and in our third game, it was up. [Or] sharpening up your offensive play, which was kind of offbeat a little bit because you’re running so many different personnel on the field. And then defensively, it’s being more aggressive at the point of attack and bleeding a little slower than what we’re doing.
"So you still have to point out how to win ... because if you don’t look at how you lost and just look at the losses, you’ll never get better," Hill-Eley added. "But for the most part, the guys’ spirits are fine. We know we’re fighting an uphill battle when you’re coming in and playing two bowl division teams and one pursuing [to be a] bowl division team. You’re talking about three teams that we’re playing in these first four games that are not in our league, that are playing at a level above us. But we’ll continue to work at it, and they’re positive about taking the challenge.”
As the Bears seek to avoid their first 0-4 start since 2001 with a win against Western Kentucky (1-2) on Saturday, they are going to have to rely on the quick maturation of at least a dozen players who have made their first starts this season. Hill-Eley said the coaches were fully aware that growing pains would be part of the process this fall.
“We knew coming into the season that our team was very young and we would have to rely on some young guys and new schemes as we prepared for the upcoming season,” he said. “When you’re going up against teams that won their conference and have had back-and-forth histories of winning, you have to have a learning time, and unfortunately, this is our learning time. We have to take our lumps now and understand guys are going to be misaligned, guys are going to blow coverage because this is their first time out. In these first three contests, you line up three or four guys and that’s their first college game, and there’s a learning curve with that.”