In the 10 seconds it took Armand Walters to race past cornerback Turnell Purkett, catch Willie McGirt's pass and wade into the end zone, the Morgan State football team had spent any moxie that was left from last week's win at Towson.
It wasn't enough to sustain the Bears (2-4, 0-3 in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) for the next 56 minutes during a 30-6 loss to North Carolina A&T; (5-1, 3-0) in front of a homecoming crowd of 22,147 at PSINet Stadium yesterday.
What went right after Walters' 61-yard touchdown catch on the Bears' first play from scrimmage? Not much. The 61-yard pass play gave Morgan State a 6-0 lead with 12: 25 left in the first quarter, but it was more than a third of their offensive total for the game.
The excessive celebration penalty after the catch must have been an omen. K.C. Vasquez's conversion kick was blocked. The Bears employed three quarterbacks after McGirt was injured. The running attack -- found last week -- dissolved again with less than 2 yards a carry, and the defense gave up more than 400 yards for the third consecutive week.
All in a day's crumbling of any faint illusions having to do with playoffs or bowls. After watching his team penalized for almost as many yards (171) as it gained (173), Morgan State coach Stanley Mitchell gave a blunt evaluation.
"We have ballplayers who aren't ballplayers, that's the truth of the matter," he said, jabbing specifically at the offensive line. "When you can't move forwards or sideways, there's nothing more you can do."
There are only so many one-play drives you can execute. Done with theirs, the Bears needed to sustain a drive, and to do that, they needed to establish a running game. They weren't up to the task against an Aggies defense that was throwing eight men in the box.
Morgan State found brief success with the option, gaining 19 yards on its first two attempts. The means of spreading the A&T; defense ended abruptly for the Bears when McGirt got hit on an option pitch and was knocked out of the game with a sprained shoulder in the second quarter.
"I expected us to throw more," said McGirt, who does not expect to play next weekend at Delaware State. "I'm just mad because I thought that we were better than they were. It just didn't work out that way."
The next quarterback, freshman Marque Brown, got Morgan State in field-goal position before a bad snap ruined that opportunity. He suffered a mild concussion on the next possession.
T. J. Stallings, who will probably start next week's game, took over in the second half. A kick returner, his experience at quarterback was limited to mimicking Bethune-Cookman's Pa'tel Troutman in preparation for a Sept. 11 game.
After a few ineffective series from Stallings, Mitchell briefly inserted receiver Marc Lester, because he knew the pass routes better than anyone else.
Lester, who had six catches for 113 yards in last year's homecoming game, threw an interception in his only attempt, returned 27 yards to the Morgan State 4 by A&T;'s Daryl Klugh, setting up a touchdown run from there by Adrian Parks with 14: 56 left in the game to close out the scoring.
"We had a good game plan, but you can't build a game plan around injuries," Mitchell said, admitting that he may have been panicked. "I had to run everything in my mind that we'd done from Day One in practice."
The defense was just as woeful. The Aggies ran for 241 yards on 48 carries.
Facing nine-man fronts, North Carolina A&T; softened them by throwing more than usual, completing 13 of 21 passes for 170 yards. After three series, the Aggies were ready to run, and Eric Farmer's 44-yard touchdown run gave them the lead with 3: 09 left in the first quarter.
On the next series, receiver Chris Caldwell lost Bears cornerback Warner Herndon and was alone for a 25-yard touchdown that made the score 14-6 with 10: 53 left in the second quarter.
"The defensive backs had their eyes in the backfield and got beat," Mitchell said. "The coaches put men in a position to make plays, but the men have to make plays."
N.C. A&T; 7 10 7 6 -- 30
Morgan State 6 0 0 0 -- 6
Next for Morgan
Opponent: Delaware State Site: Alumni Stadium, Dover, Del. When: Saturday, 1 p.m. Record: 2-4 Yesterday: Idle.