After watching a 16-point halftime lead be replaced by a 27-23 fourth quarter deficit against Hampton on Saturday, Morgan State quarterback Robert Council didn't panic when met with a fourth-and-13 from his own 37-yard line.
Instead, with less than three minutes to play, Council completed a 36-yard pass to Antonio Jefferson, extending the Bears' drive. A few plays later, Council's 7-yard touchdown pass to Nate Ingram with 26 seconds remaining gave Morgan a 30-27 lead that the defense held, securing a key Mid-Eastern Conference win before an announced 5,789 at Hughes Stadium.
"We had to score," Ingram said. "In order to win that game, we got to get seven points."
And Council, in just his third start this season, said he was well-prepared for what ought to have been a pressure-packed drive.
"Every … practice we do two-minute drill," Council said. "There really wasn't ... pressure."
Morgan coach Donald Hill-Eley said the win was important after last week's 28-14 loss to Howard, in which Council struggled.
"It's only fitting for him [Council] to go down and lead a winning score after having such a rough week," Hill-Eley said.
At first, it did not appear the Bears would need any late-game heroics to dispatch the Pirates (3-6, 3-2), who Morgan last beat in 2009.
Morgan (3-6, 3-2) rushed for 157 yards in the first half on 24 attempts. Running back Lamont Brown III set the tone for the Bears offense in the middle of the first quarter when he burst through an open gap and dashed down the field for a 59-yard gain, before being dragged down just short of the end zone by Hampton defensive back Justin Blake.
Brown's run was the longest offensive play from scrimmage the Bears have had all season. He finished the game with 12 carries for 93 yards and one touchdown.
Hampton scored its first touchdown of the game on a Bryan Bailey 25-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Twarn Mixson in the second quarter.
On the kickoff after Mixson's score, Morgan's Tubotein Taylor received the kick, ran wide left and cut through traffic untouched for a 93-yard touchdown, putting the Bears up 17-7.
It was Morgan's first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2012, when Tyrone Hendrix ran for a 100-yard score against Delaware State.
After using those big plays to control the first half, the Bears went into halftime up 23-7.
But momentum shifted immediately in the third quarter when Hampton's Jorrian Washington took a handoff and ran 88 yards for a quick score just 24 seconds into the quarter. The Pirates gained 316 yards in the second half after gaining just 141 in the first.
Morgan was down 27-23 before Council went to work on his game-winning drive.
The quarterback finished the game 20-for-27, with 287 yards passing and one touchdown pass. He also ran 18 times for 96 yards, including a 1-yard score. The Bears finished the game with 515 yards of total offense.
After squandering a 16-point lead, Hill-Eley was happy with how his team responded in the fourth quarter.
"Just resilience," said Hill-Eley of his team's ability to come from behind. "Our guys … don't quit."
The win moved Morgan into a fourth-place tie with Hampton in the MEAC. The Pirates had been on a three-game winning streak.
"It's very easy to build off a win," Hill-Eley said. "Part of belief is winning. ... We're not going to quit. We're going to continue to fight."
The Bears will play their final home game Saturday against North Carolina A&T.