For one afternoon, Morgan State returned to the glory days of the 1960s and early '70s.
The Bears brought back memories of the Earl Banks coaching era yesterday by knocking off nationally ranked black power Texas Southern, 24-17, in Morgan's home opener at Hughes Stadium before 3,550.
Texas Southern (2-1), ranked ninth in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network black college poll, routed Morgan, 42-3, last season.
Morgan was sparked by an outstanding performance by sophomore quarterback Willie McGirt, a transfer from Virginia Tech. Yesterday, McGirt displayed the talent of a big-time collegiate quarterback, throwing perfect spirals 50 yards down the field, using brute strength to scramble away from potential tacklers and doing whatever else it took to move his team downfield.
When the McGirt show was over, he had completed 12 of 21
passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns, giving him seven touchdown passes in three games.
If McGirt continues to play the way he did yesterday, the Bears (2-1) could attain the 8-2 record McGirt predicted for them before the season. That would be an amazing accomplishment for a program that has not had a winning season since 1979.
While McGirt is the focal point of the Morgan program, he had many other partners in yesterday's upset.
Morgan senior running back Fred Jenkins rushed for 84 yards and one touchdown on 12 carries and caught a 14-yard scoring pass from McGirt.
"I'm just one player," said Jenkins. "I'll let my line speak for me."
McGirt also was low-key, saying, "I'll let my actions speak for themselves. I still have a lot to work on."
But offensive tackle William Brown was more vocal in the aftermath of one of the biggest Morgan wins in the past 17 years.
"Texas Southern had a lot of impressive stats this year but they hadn't played us yet," he said.
Morgan's left guard Archie Glass said: "Our drive-blocking was the difference. We can block for the pass or the run and Willie is getting it all together behind us."
Morgan wide receivers Anthony Collins and Na'im Greene combined for nine receptions for 188 yards and two touchdowns.
Greene and McGirt hooked up on the play of the day late in the first quarter, when Greene outran the entire Texas Southern defense and McGirt laid the ball in Greene's arms perfectly at the Tigers' 14-yard line for a 54-yard touchdown pass.
That touchdown pass tied the score at 6, and the Bears surged ahead, 18-8, in the third quarter, before Texas Southern sliced the lead to 18-17 with 5: 54 left in the game.
Morgan's Albert Brady prevented the Tigers from tying the game at 18 when he blocked Ramon Rivera's extra-point attempt.
Then Jenkins made a 13-yard touchdown run, dragging people with him, to push Morgan ahead, 24-17, with 2: 04 remaining. McGirt's two-point conversion pass attempt for tight end Tyrone Smith was overthrown, giving Texas Southern a chance in the final minutes.
But the relentless Morgan defense held off Texas Southern quarterback Jarrett Harper down the stretch, with safety Charles Fields intercepting a Harper pass at the Morgan 14 with nine seconds left.
Fields and linebackers Willie Thompson and James Hall all were impressive as the Bears limited Texas Southern to 79 yards rushing and 187 yards passing.
The Texas Southern defense had held two opponents to a combined minus-15 yards rushing to start the season, but Morgan punctured the Tigers for 147 yards rushing.
Harper said: "Morgan played way above their heads and I take my hat off to them."
Next for Morgan
Opponent: Norfolk State
Site: Dick Price Stadium, Norfolk, Va.
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Yesterday: Lost to Delaware State, 24-21.
Pub Date: 9/21/97