For want of some quick strikes, a game was lost by Morgan State yesterday.
Morgan (1-4) played strong defense most of the game after an open date last week and had a chance to upset the Bulldogs despite falling behind 16-0 early in the second period.
Two of South Carolina State's big plays, an 89-yard scoring run down the sideline by Kenny Bynum and a 37-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Antwaine Smith to Bobby McGowens, were responsible for most of Morgan's early deficit.
The Bears, forced to work harder for their points, never got out of that pit although they came close.
Trailing 24-13, Morgan moved into scoring position with a 48-yard punt return by Elijah Cameron. Then, with seven yards to go on fourth down at the Bulldogs' 20, Morgan coach Ricky Diggs disdained the field-goal try.
"Time wasn't working for us," said quarterback Michael Moore, explaining the decision to go for it. "We needed to get as many points as we could."
Moore passed perfectly across the middle to a wide-open Otis Covington, but Covington couldn't hold the ball. With 11:15 remaining in the game, Morgan's best opportunity to recover had expired.
"We had so many dropped balls, not just that one," said Diggs. "Our players played well enough to get into position to win, but they didn't know how to do it.
"We need to just refine what we're doing and continue to work hard. We're already seeing some rewards."
Morgan has not had a winning season since 1979, and started this game like a team with that ignominious recent past. Moore was intercepted twice and guilty of a poor lateral on three of the first four possessions.
"We got off to a rough start, but then calmed down and gained our confidence and composure," said Moore, who has a shot at the school's all-time record for passing yardage.
Diggs said the offensive line was jumbled, with players out of position after disciplinary action was taken against starting center Felipe Jackson, who did not play.
That obviously contributed to the Bears' shaky beginning. But they capitalized on one of the Bulldogs' five turnovers to drive 37 yards to their first touchdown, a 21-yard strike from Moore to Na'im Greene.
Later, Shane Griffiths kicked field goals of 33 and 46 yards to help push Morgan into a threatening position against a team it lost to 49-7 last season.
But the Bulldogs (3-2) never lost their tenacity despite their offensive mistakes, using another big play -- a 41-yard scoring pass from Smith to Lamorris Bacote -- to keep Morgan safely at arm's length.
"We just don't seem to have a team that can knock people out," said South Carolina State coach Willie Jeffries. "We're happy to get out of here with a win. Morgan always plays us hard."
Said Bulldogs defensive coordinator Ben Blacknall: "We hung in there against a team that always seems to save its best effort for us."
"I felt we had this one," said Moore. "We could have played better than we did, but we made mistakes we couldn't afford at those particular times."
Next for Morgan
Opponent: North Carolina A&T;
Site: Hughes Stadium
When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
5) Yesterday: Lost to Florida A&M;, 20-3.