Morgan State football coach Lee Hull had to deliver a familiar halftime speech Saturday against Hampton.
For the third straight week, he admonished his players for an ineffective first half. "Start off strong and finish strong" had been the team's mantra against the Pirates, but the Bears did not heed the advice.
Morgan State could not overcome the early struggles, losing its homecoming game, 20-10, before an announced 7,724 at Hughes Stadium. The defeat ended the Bears' seven-game conference winning streak.
"I told them this day was going to come if we started off slow," Hull said. "That's what happened today. We started off slow. The last two games, we were able to dig ourselves out of the hole. This time, we weren't. Offensively, we couldn't execute. That's the bottom line."
Orlando Johnson had 90 rushing yards on 20 carries for Morgan State (3-3, 3-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference)
Trailing 17-3 at halftime, the Bears finally got into the end zone with Andrew King's 48-yard punt return with 4:47 left in the third quarter. Morgan State's offense, however, continued to stall, regularly forcing its defense back onto the field.
Hampton (4-3, 3-2) put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 15-play, 70-yard drive that took 8:26 off the clock. Adam Brown hit a 31-yard field goal for a 20-10 lead.
The Bears managed to get inside the Pirates 20-yard line with two minutes remaining, but an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on offensive lineman Ehijele Ubuane (St. Frances) pushed them back. A 42-yard field-goal attempt by Chris Moller was tipped at the line.
"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot," said Morgan State quarterback Moses Skillon, who was 17 of 36 for 141 passing yards and an interception. "We can't have a performance like that. The defense is playing their butts off. We just could not put a drive together. We couldn't finish. I take full responsibility for that."
Hampton took a 7-0 lead when quarterback David Watford found Rashawn Proctor streaking down the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown with 4:06 left in the first quarter. The Bears had another costly breakdown early in the second quarter when Skillon's lateral bounced off Johnson. Pirates cornerback Darius Banks grabbed the fumble on one bounce and raced 83 yards to boost the lead to 14-0.
On the next drive, Skillon threw an interception to Chaka Diarrassouba at midfield. The Bears responded a play later when inside linebacker Mike Gaynor picked off a pass by Watford, leading to a 49-yard field goal by Moller.
"I think we did pretty good," Gaynor said. "We left a couple of plays out there. We could have had a couple of more turnovers. That's all we needed, was some more turnovers to win the game."