So much for a fresh start.
Taking advantage of another poor start by Morgan State -- and the Bears' inability to stop the run -- the Bulldogs scored the game's first four touchdowns, saw sophomore running back Michael Hicks rush 24 times for a career-high 224 yards and rolled to a 49-13 rout before 3,400 at Hughes Stadium.
For Morgan State (2-3, 0-2), the defeat marked the eighth straight failure to beat a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opponent, dating to the last game of 1991. The Bears were trying to beat South Carolina State (4-2, 1-1) for the first time since 1979, Morgan State's last winning season.
"We played like we've never practiced before," said third-year coach Ricky Diggs, whose Morgan State record fell to 5-22.
"We made simple mistakes and beat ourselves," added senior defensive end Matt Steeple. "We've got to get it together. We're a better team than that."
The Bears weren't remotely as proficient as South Carolina State. Exploiting the youngest offensive line in the MEAC, the Bulldogs' defense stuffed a Morgan State offense that had been averaging 34 points. Led by Anthony Cook (three tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks), the Bulldogs collected five sacks, permitted just 27 yards net rushing and held the Bears to a season-low point total.
The Bears' youthful defense -- they started four freshmen and two sophomores -- likewise was no match for the Bulldogs. South Carolina State mixed an unusual number of passes with its familiar, power-running game and broke Morgan State with big plays early, as the Bulldogs scored on their first three possessions.
South Carolina State rolled up 543 yards, including 362 on the ground. Quarterback Marvin Marshall, who rushed for a touchdown, also completed seven of 18 passes for 155 yards and a score. Before yesterday's game, the Bulldogs had attempted only 32 passes this year.
Maybe the Bears should try skipping the first quarter, since the opening 15 minutes have been a horror show for them this season.
By the time yesterday's hourlong first quarter had ended, the Bears had committed six penalties and one costly turnover, yielded 215 yards, and were trailing, 27-0. The Bears have been outscored in the first period this year, 84-13.
Hicks, a 6-foot-1, 185-pounder who broke Herschel Walker's single-season rushing record two years ago at Robert E. Lee High School in Lamar, Ga., did all of his damage in a little less than three quarters. He dazzled Morgan State from the outset, rushing for 139 yards in the first period and 188 by halftime.
"Running behind a big line like ours, it's easy to find the holes. We felt we could run on them," said Hicks, who has 4.42 speed and slippery moves to boot. "The line just kept pounding them, and their defense got tired."
Hicks owned the Bulldogs' opening drive. They needed only four plays -- all handoffs to Hicks -- to drive 55 yards. They gained the last 43 yards when Hicks burst through the middle, easily outran the Morgan State secondary and cruised in for the score.
The Bulldogs caught Morgan State napping on their next possession. On the first play of the drive, Marshall hit Quincy Miller with a deep pass over the middle. Miller, who got behind Eric Johnson on the play, caught the pass in stride to complete a 65-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs a 13-0 lead six minutes into the game.
And things got uglier for the Bears. Chris Ursini fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by Macey Stephens, giving the Bulldogs a first-and-goal at the Bears' 7.
Morgan State finally got on the board early in the second period, when Orlando Persell hit Jesse Humphrey (five catches, 108 yards) with a 9-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 27-7.
South Carolina State 27 6 16 0 -- 49
Morgan State 0 7 6 0 -- 13
NEXT FOR MORGAN:
N. CAROLINA A&T;
When: Saturday, at Hughes Stadium.
Yesterday: Beat Florida A&M;, 41-13.