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Morgan State football upsets South Carolina State, but playoff picture is bleak

Morgan State football got the win it needed, but it doesn't appear that will help the team's postseason chances.

Trailing a pair of teams in the race for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, the Bears desperately needed a victory and got one Saturday by upsetting South Carolina State, 24-21, before an announced 3,013 at Hughes Stadium.

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Morgan State (6-5, 5-2 MEAC) snapped a nine-game losing skid to the Bulldogs (7-4, 5-2), who lost to the Bears in Baltimore for the first time since Oct. 19, 1974.

But North Carolina A&T's 34-0 shutout of Savannah State puts the Aggies (9-2, 6-1) in sole possession of first place in the MEAC. If North Carolina A&T beats North Carolina Central (6-5, 5-2) next Saturday, the Aggies will capture the championship and the conference's automatic berth to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

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Even if North Carolina A&T loses, the Aggies still own the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of last week's 45-0 shellacking of the Bears. It's unlikely Morgan State would be selected for the 20-team playoff as an at-large team because the Bears could finish with no more than seven wins.

Still, Morgan State's win was a thrilling affair. For the second time in three home games, the team rallied in the fourth quarter. Senior outside linebacker Christopher Robinson (Dunbar) also broke the school record for career sacks (now 26 1/2)

In a 21-20 win over North Carolina Central on Oct. 18, redshirt senior quarterback Robert Council threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Andrew King (Atholton) with 32.4 seconds left in regulation.

On Saturday, redshirt junior quarterback Moses Skillon scrambled 9 yards off right tackle with 58 seconds left for the victory.

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"This is special because of the way we played last week," Bears coach Lee Hull said. "I'm very proud of our guys with how they bounced back. I always tell those guys that a true test of a man's character is how he bounces back from adversity. They did a good job today."

Skillon, who earned his third start of the season and got the nod over Council after both passers fared poorly in the loss to North Carolina A&T, overcame an uneven performance.

In the first and third quarters, he completed 9 of 16 passes for 79 yards and was intercepted twice. In the second and fourth periods, he connected on 16 of 27 throws for 210 yards and two touchdowns.

"I just had to settle down and trust my offensive line because they were sticking their noses in there and giving me good space to feel comfortable," said Skillon, who said he was informed by Hull on Friday that he would start. "I just wanted to stay focused and feel more comfortable in the pocket."

The offense began slowly, punting on all three of its first-quarter possessions. Skillon's most egregious error occurred after redshirt sophomore Justin Taylor punched in a 1-yard score to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 2:29 left in the period.

The Bears executed a perfect fake punt with redshirt sophomore punter Lawrence Forbes running 26 yards to the Bulldogs' 35. On the next play, Skillon underthrew a pass intended for sophomore wide receiver Landen Malbrough in the back right corner of the end zone, and redshirt junior cornerback Antonio Hamilton intercepted the ball.

But the offense found its rhythm in the second quarter. On its first series, the unit moved 53 yards in 12 plays and got a 44-yard field goal from redshirt sophomore kicker Chris Moller with 7:18 remaining.

After a South Carolina State three-and-out, Skillon spotted King streaking down the middle without a defender within 10 yards, and they connected for a 55-yard touchdown for a 10-7 lead that Morgan State took into halftime.

After a third quarter in which the Bears went three-and-out after junior free safety Peterson Janvier intercepted a pass from redshirt sophomore quarterback Adrian Kollock Jr. at the Bulldogs' 45 and Skillon threw his second interception of the game, South Carolina State took a 14-10 lead on a 3-yard run by Taylor with 1:48 left in the quarter.

Morgan State regained the advantage when Skillon found sophomore wide receiver Ladarious Spearman in the back right corner of the end zone with 12:19 remaining in regulation. But on the ensuing kickoff, Hamilton returned the kick 98 yards to give the Bulldogs a 21-17 lead.

That set up Skillon's game-winning touchdown run, which — Robinson — was never in doubt.

"When [Hamilton] took it back, we were just looking at it as, 'OK, the offense is going to go back out and score, and the defense is going to get a stop,'" he said. "So for the whole game, we were in it the whole time. There was never a person on the sideline that I know of that began to panic. Everybody was into it. We're so close as a family that we didn't allow that to break us. We embraced it and responded to it. This is a good quality win."

Robinson broke Morgan State 24 1/2 sacks now he has 25/12

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