After earning a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title with four other teams and representing the league in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, Morgan State won its first three league games this fall and appeared to be cruising to a highly anticipated showdown with Bethune-Cookman for conference supremacy.
But Saturday's 20-10 loss at home to Hampton brought those expectations back down to earth, and coach Lee Hull said the Bears (3-3 overall, 3-1 in the MEAC) bought into their own hype.
"The biggest takeaway is you can't read your press clippings, you can't think that you're better than what you are," Hull said Tuesday morning during his weekly conference call organized by the league. "In this league, it's very tough. Everybody is equal. It just shows with last year with a five-way tie there. So you've got to come to play every single game. So hopefully, this was a learning experience. That's only one loss in the conference. We still control our own destiny. We've just got to come back strong here against a very good [North Carolina] Central team this week."
Morgan State had dispatched Howard, Delaware State and Savannah State – three teams with a combined overall record of 1-17 and MEAC mark of 1-10. But against the Pirates (4-3, 3-2), the Bears were shut out in the first and fourth quarters and couldn't overcome a 17-3 halftime deficit.
Hull said the program is still getting accustomed to success.
"I just think we're still a young team and this is still new for us – winning," he said. "They haven't really won a lot here in the past before I got here. So we're still learning how to deal with winning. What comes with winning is everyone telling you how good you are, and you can't believe that. That's the biggest thing I'm trying to get over to my guys, that you can't read your press clippings, you can't listen to other people tell you how good you are. Also even in the Morgan State community right now, they've wanted a winner for so long that they have to learn how to handle winning. So that's what we're really working on, learning how to handle the success that we're having."
Despite the loss, the team is tied for second in the league standings with Bethune-Cookman (5-2, 3-1), and both are just slightly behind North Carolina A&T (5-1, 3-0), which is ranked No. 24 in the latest STATS poll.
Hull said Morgan State can make a push for the conference title beginning with Saturday's road contest at North Carolina Central (3-3, 2-1).
"So we've just got to take care of business," he said. "We still control our own destiny. Obviously, we need some help from somebody, but I do think the goal is attainable. But we've got to take it one game at a time. We've got Central this week. We're going down there, they're going to be tough to beat at home, and we've just got to take care of business one game at a time."