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Late touchdown pass helps Morgan State edge North Carolina Central, 21-20

After failing to protect late leads in its three losses this season, the Morgan State football team delivered a comeback of its own.

Quarterback Robert Council found Andrew King for a touchdown pass with 32.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter as the Bears edged visiting North Carolina Central, 21-20, before an announced 9,420 at Hughes Stadium.

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The Bears (4-3, 3-1 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) had lost three games by a combined seven points, so reversing the trend was a relief for first-year coach Lee Hull.

"I talked about it being a 60-minute game, that it was going to be a dogfight and that it was probably going to come down to the wire," he said. "One of the things I told them was we wanted to finish it on our terms, which we did. We lost three games by a total of seven points, and the ball had to bounce our way one of these times, and it did."

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An offensive resurgence in the fourth quarter made the victory possible. Trailing 20-7, Morgan State cut into the deficit with a 4-yard touchdown carry by sophomore running back Herb Walker Jr.

Then, after Eagles freshman kicker Eric Fenton's 51-yard field-goal attempt fell short — his third miss of the game — the Bears went 64 yards in 2:03, capping the 10-play drive with a 15-yard pass from Council to King on a corner route to the back of the end zone.

"I saw the safety was down a little bit, and no one was over King," said Council, who went 7-for-22 for 104 passing yards and had 122 rushing yards and one touchdown on 22 carries. "I knew he had a corner route. So all I had to do was put the ball there, and he did the rest."

Added King, whose only reception was the touchdown catch: "The linebacker was inside of me, and the corners were playing up close. So when I was running and I planted, I saw there was open field and I saw the ball come up and I just got it."

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The Bears got some help from their defense, which allowed just three first downs, 67 yards and three points in the final quarter. Before its game-winning drive, Morgan State stopped the Eagles on third-and-4 from the Bears 34, leading to Fenton's missed field goal.

"When the time was rough, we got together on third down and said, 'This is the money down. Let's make a play,' " said senior strong safety Paul Eatman Jr., who had nine tackles and two passes defended. "And we made a play."

For more than three quarters, Morgan State spun its wheels on offense, recording just 11 first downs and converting four of 11 third-down opportunities. Walker, the second-leading rusher in the Football Championship Subdivision, was limited to 67 yards, his fewest since becoming the starter in Week 2.

Hull said the key was recognizing that North Carolina Central (3-4, 2-1) was intent on containing Walker.

"They loaded the box," said Hull, who called eight passing plays and 13 running plays in the fourth quarter. "They were putting everybody inside, and they kept bringing the safety down on the back side to stop our runs. … They were loading the box and playing man[-to-man defense]. So we knew we had to throw the ball a little bit."

Before the late offensive outburst, the Bears' only other touchdown of the game came after Eagles junior Adrian Wilkins muffed a punt and Morgan State regained possession at North Carolina Central's 27.

Council scored on a 15-yard keeper just 34 seconds into the second quarter, but the offense floundered after that.

The Eagles took advantage. Fenton converted a 31-yard field goal, and after a poor punt by sophomore Lawrence Forbes gave North Carolina Central possession at its own 48, the Eagles needed just six plays in 40 seconds to score a touchdown, an 8-yard run by junior running back Deyonta Wright. The score gave the Eagles a 10-7 lead with 34.2 seconds left before halftime.

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