Memories of last season's heartbreaking loss to Delaware State were still etched in the minds of many of Morgan State's players and coaches when the teams met yesterday for the Bears' homecoming.
In that game, the Hornets stunned Morgan State with a 100-yard fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winning touchdown. The Bears exorcised that game from their minds yesterday by playing mistake-free in a 20-3 victory over the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions before an announced 6,312.
Devan James, the leading rusher in the MEAC at 125 yards per game, led Morgan State (5-3, 3-1) with 103 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. The Bears' defense, ranked second in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision, forced three turnovers and held Delaware State (3-4, 3-2) to 118 total yards.
"It adds to the motivation," Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley said of last season's loss. "It's good to show that these young men were able to bounce back. Football is a great game in that you have another opportunity to go out and correct a wrong. Today, it will be our victory. Last year was their victory. They enjoyed it, and we'll enjoy it today."
Morgan State's defense has held opponents to 230.8 yards per game, and an interception by Troy Leftwich on Delaware State's 30-yard line set up the Bears' first score. James ran for 26 yards on the ensuing handoff and then barreled into the end zone from the 2-yard line two plays later for his sixth touchdown this season.
"They are a fast defense, so I had to be patient and find the lanes," James said.
With a new starting quarterback and center, 49 of the Bears' 61 offensive plays were runs. Carlton Jackson took over at quarterback for Jeremy Glover, who injured his thumb the previous week against Howard. Dwayne Smith replaced Eric Fair, who injured his knee in the previous game.
Jackson completed five of 12 passes for 50 yards. He was replaced for two series in the third quarter by Mario Melton after being hit on the arm but returned in the fourth quarter.
The Bears did not commit a turnover and had only three penalties for 21 yards.
"With these types of teams, the team that creates the most turnovers is going to win the game," Delaware State coach Al Lavan said. "I thought the defense really played, for the most part, pretty doggone good. They gave up a play here and there. But you're not going to play much better against that caliber of running back and offensive line. We simply were not able to overcome the turnovers."
Delaware State did not move the ball inside Morgan State's 43-yard line in the second half. The Bears capitalized on the solid field possession, and James Meade's 27-yard field goal with 13:30 left in the fourth quarter increased the lead to 13-3.
An interception by Darren McKhan on the Hornets' 42-yard line resulted in Morgan State's second touchdown - a five-play, 33-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard run by James. It was Morgan State's first victory over Delaware State since 2004.
"We went out and played as a unit and didn't turn the ball over," Hill-Eley said. "We've been averaging two or three turnovers a week. The guys kept the ball from the other team and created some turnovers. Special teams did not have any breakdowns."
Saturday, 3 p.m.
Radio: 88.9 FM