A critical Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game brought no Halloween treat for Morgan State on Saturday.

In one of the most controversial endings ever at Hughes Stadium, Morgan quarterback Carlton Jackson was ruled short of a first down on a fourth-and-inches plunge in overtime and Florida A&M; survived to win a 31-28 decision over the stunned Bears.

On the play, which occurred at the Florida A&M; 16-yard line, the officials ruled that Jackson had been stopped short by Cameron Houston after Morgan coach Donald Hill-Eley passed up a field-goal attempt that could have tied the score.

With the victory, the Rattlers (6-2, 4-1) assumed sole possession of second place behind South Carolina State in the MEAC while Morgan (5-3, 3-2) dropped to third.

It was the second consecutive setback for the Bears.

Hill-Eley said he went for the yardage because "the kids asked for it. We actually thought we got the first down. We only needed 6 inches, and [Jackson] fell across the 15. He didn't fall back; he was going forward.

"[The call] was unbelievable," Hill-Eley said. "You hate to try to explain that to 19- and 20-year-olds."

Morgan never led in a topsy-turvy contest after one of the league's top offenses struck its defense for two quick touchdowns to start the game. But the Bears kept battling back and eventually had a chance to pull it out after Florida A&M; settled for a 35-yard field goal by Trevor Scott on its overtime possession.

When the Bears took the ball, Jackson was sacked for a 9-yard loss by LeRoy Vann.

But a 15-yard completion to Terrell White and Jackson's 3-yard gain carried the ball to the Rattlers' 16 and set up the strange ending.

Hill-Eley said he never considered the field-goal attempt to force a second overtime because "we were down by three and at home and we only needed inches."

He applauded his team for consistently fighting back against the offensive assault of Florida A&M; quarterback Curtis Pulley, who rushed for 231 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 174 yards and another touchdown.

"We're always going to battle," Hill-Eley said. "We did what we had to do. Jackson played well (16-for-22, 207 yards, two touchdowns) and moved us down the field."

The Bears forced the overtime with a 90-yard scoring march climaxed by Jackson's 53-yard connection with Edwin Baptiste, who had raced behind the Rattlers' secondary after the defense staged an all-out blitz.

Neither team was able to score in its final two possessions of regulation, with Florida A&M; surrendering the ball on a fumble by Pulley after he had raced 40 yards to the Morgan 38.

Three punts - and some questionable penalties - followed.

The outcome gave Rattlers coach Joe Taylor, who was Hill-Eley's mentor at Hampton - a 6-2 record against his former pupil and ended a two-game Morgan winning streak in the series.

The game featured a total of 888 yards of combined offense and eight plays that gained at least 10 yards.

But in the end, it came down to a matter of an inch or 2, and the Bears lost to the measuring stick.

Florida A&M;

14 0 7 7 3-31

Morgan St.

7 7 7 7 0-28

First quarter

Fam-Elliott 16 pass from Pulley (T.Scott kick), 13:10.

Fam-Sylvester 19 run (T.Scott kick), 6:43.

Morg-Morton-Green 27 pass from Jackson (Scarlett kick), 2:18.

Second quarter

Morg-D.West 2 run (Scarlett kick), 14:03.

Third quarter

Fam-Pulley 6 run (T.Scott kick), 10:12.

Morg-Jackson 1 run (Scarlett kick), 1:29.

Fourth quarter

Fam-Pulley 36 run (T.Scott kick), 14:14.

Morg-Baptiste 53 pass from Jackson (Scarlett kick), 8:33.

O vertime

Fam-FG T.Scott 35.


Fam Morg

First downs 18 19

Rushes-Yards 35-272 48-235

Passing 174 207

Cmp.-Att.-Int. 13-24-2 16-23-0

Return Yards 47 26

Punts-Avg. 2-33.5 4-43.3

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1

Penalties-Yds. 6-45 13-98

Time of poss. 24:49 50:11

Rushing-Florida A&M;, Pulley 20-231, Sylvester 9-22, Vann 3-16, Henry 3-3. Morgan St., James 20-133, D.West 9-55, Jackson 14-27, Dickerson 5-20.

Passing-Florida A&M;, Pulley 13-22-1-174, Elliott 0-1-0-0, Q.Hall 0-1-1-0. Morgan St., Jackson 16-22-0-207, Dickerson 0-1-0-0.

Receiving-Florida A&M;, Elliott 7-81, West 3-30, Sylvester 1-49, Purcell 1-14, Funderburk 1-0. Morgan St., Morton-Green 4-62, Diggs 4-18, Baptiste 2-60, Cherenfant 2-27, T.White 2-18, Burley 1-15, Bryant 1-7.



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