For the first time in a long while, Morgan State fans have a positive context in which to place the football portion of homecoming weekend.
With a 28-22 win over Towson last week, the Bears (2-3 overall, 0-2 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) bask in the glow of victory as they enter today's 3: 30 p.m. game at PSINet Stadium against North Carolina A&T; (4-1, 2-0).
Morgan has not gone into homecoming after a win since 1979, also the last time the Bears had a winning season (9-2).
"Now they know how it is to be a winner," said coach Stanley Mitchell. "The kids haven't had to hang their heads, because people are constantly congratulating them."
Defensive lineman Larry Tucker said he heard laments from students who didn't go to the Towson game. "We walk into class, and they're very happy for us. We need to keep that going so we can hear stuff like that again."
Two decades later, the Bears are thinking that solid play over the next five weeks could help them make the Heritage Bowl or even the Division I-AA playoffs.
But with two conference losses, doing so will be an uphill climb. Morgan would have to win its final five games and hope for help in catching the league leaders, Florida A&M; and North Carolina A&T.;
"We haven't given up," Mitchell said. "On any given Saturday, someone can knock anybody off."
For instance, the Aggies come into Baltimore fresh off a 41-24 win over nationally ranked Hampton that was jarring in its severity.
Led by Maurice Smith's running for 141 yards on 18 carries, A&T; totaled 251 yards rushing against the Pirates, normally a strong defensive team. At 235 pounds, Smith presents a challenge for the Bears, who gave up 211 rushing yards in last week's win.
"They're going to try to attack us with the big backs," Mitchell said. "We've got to gang-tackle them and get them going east and west instead of north and south."