DOVER, Del. — Running back Lamont Brown III and quarterback Seth Higgins' big games on the ground propelled Morgan State to a 31-26 victory over Delaware State on Saturday in the 57th meeting between the rivals.
Brown carried the ball 18 times for 134 yards on his way to two scores that put the Bears in the lead each time, while Higgins also eclipsed the century mark for the second time this season (23 attempts for 137 yards).
"He gives us another weapon," Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said of Higgins. "As you can see, we didn't have a 200 pound back this year. To have a quarterback at 230 pounds that runs the ball way he does, it gives us a big back. He has to have labrum surgery on Monday and to be able to have a kid to go out there and gut it up for your team, it says a lot."
After a wild fourth quarter that featured four lead changes, Higgins carried the ball across the goal line for the winning score with 46 seconds remaining to seal the victory for the Bears.
"It was good that we could match their intensity," Hill-Eley said. "That team had been coming from behind and winning a lot of games so we know that they weren't going to give up. We tried to extend our lead and then they had one big play. Our guys kept responding. It was good to see both young teams competing like that. I think they have seven seniors, we've got seven seniors so it shows the competition that lies ahead."
The final quarter of play began with a 72 yard pass from Delaware quarterback Cory Murphy to wide receiver Milton Williams to put Delaware State back on top of the Bears. Higgins and Morgan State responded on the very next drive, capped off by an 11-yard touchdown reception by tight end Ladarius Spearman.
Murphy put together a second fourth quarter scoring drive when he found running back Malcolm Williams for a nine-yard score to put his team back in the lead 26-25 with under five minutes left in regulation, but the Hornet defense was unable to stop Higgins and Brown III on the final drive for Morgan State.
"The line was giving me a whole bunch of time. I was sitting back there," Murphy said. "I was very comfortable back there. The second half, I knew we could just throw it around ... and get in a rhythm. It was nice, just one touchdown short."
For Murphy, this was the best statistical performance of his career, throwing for 372 yards with three touchdowns.
"The young man can throw the football around the field, anywhere he needs to put it," Delaware State coach Kermit Blount said. "...He has done an excellent job for us. His numbers are probably off the charts. We're probably throwing the football a little more than we want to, but that's what we were this season and I thought he did an excellent job for us."
Morgan State (5-7, 5-3 MEAC) drove 75 yards on the opening drive of the game to take an early lead over the Hornets (5-6, 5-3). Brown took a pitch from Higgins and scampered 32 yards to the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the season to give the Bears a 7-0 advantage.
After Murphy's pass was intercepted by Morgan State's Bill Hill on the Hornets' first drive of the game, it looked like the Bears had the upper hand with some early momentum. However, the ensuing drive ended with a Lawrence Forbes punt that pinned the Hornets inside of their own 10-yard line.
Murphy was moving the Hornets offense down the field, passing for 31 yards and rushing for nine more. The Morgan State defense finally stopped the Hornets on third down and forced Murphy and the rest of the offense into a fourth-and-1. A false start pushed Delaware State further back and forced them to punt the ball back to the Bears.
However, Malcolm Williams later scored on a 1-yard run to get Hornets on the board with 12:26 left in the second quarter. The extra-point was no good, leaving the score at 7-6.
Delaware State's final drive of the first half resulted in a blocked field goal. Starting from his own 32-yard line, Murphy threw for 56 yards on the drive and marched the team down to the Morgan State 6-yard line. After he threw behind Jeremiah Williams in the end zone on third down with six seconds before halftime, Delaware State's 23-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Morgan State linebacker Cody Acker as the first half expired. Combined with a missed extra point and a blocked extra point, the missing points proved costly for Delaware State.
"We missed and extra point and got one blocked so we left points on the field," Blount said." We felt that we should've scored a touchdown right before the half which would've given us the momentum getting the football back. We didn't play with that desire and fire so we've got to fix that."
NOTES: Morgan State leads the all-time series 32-24. ... Delaware State QB Cory Murphy threw for a career-high 372 passing yards, eclipsing previous high of 302 yards against Delaware on Sept. 7. Murphy also threw for a career-best three passing touchdowns. ... QB Seth Higgins and RB Lamont Brown both rushed for over 100 yards for the first time this season.