Morgan State football claws back, but unravels late in 21-17 loss to North Carolina Central

At the end, after Morgan State had comitted its umpteenth turnover of the season — an interception that killed a last-ditch rally — wide receiver Ladarious Spearman unleashed his frustration. The Bears' wide receiver pounded his football helmet with both hands. The helmet was still on his head.

Morgan State lost, 21-17, Saturday to favored North Carolina Central on a windswept field at Hughes Stadium. That the Bears (2-4) fought back from a two-touchdown deficit against a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference power, and actually led late in the game, made the outcome that much more painful.


"We've got to find a way to play 60 minutes," said Fred Farrier, the Bears interim head coach. "For 56 minutes, we played well enough that everyone in the stands [at homecoming] was happy. But we've got to find a way to finish the game."

Records aside, Morgan State interim football coach Fred T. Farrier is intent on turning out men.

The loss leaves Morgan State at 2-2 in the conference, while North Carolina Central improves to 5-0 (6-2 overall).

It began as a rout, the Eagles scoring twice in the first 4 1/2 minutes to lead 14-0. But the Bears clawed back, going 80 yards in five plays as quarterback Chris Andrews hit Ricky Fisk with a 12-yard touchdown pass. Morgan State pulled even in the second quarter after the Eagles' Mike Jones (Milford Mill) fumbled a punt on his 7-yard line that was recovered by the Bears' Ian McBorrough (Eastern Tech). On the next play, running back Eric Harrell found the end zone, standing up.

On its next possession, North Carolina Central lost its star quarterback, Malcolm Bell, who fumbled after being hit hard by defensive back Darius Johnson (St. Paul's). Bell lay sprawled on the field for several minutes with an apparent head injury and left the game.

On the Eagles' next offensive play, Bell's replacement, freshman Naiil Ramadan, was intercepted by Malachi Washington, a defensive end. With less than one second remaining, and a 40 mph wind at his back, Alex Raya kicked a 40-yard field goal. At halftime, the Bears led 17-14 against a team that had entered the game with 11 straight conference wins.

The home team wouldn't score again. Morgan State, which has managed three points in the third quarter all season, frittered away opportunites in the second half on the interception and two lost fumbles. Twice, the Bears punted for a total of 35 yards. Once, the offense was penalized 15 yards for a face mask infraction.

Moreover, Andrews was shaken up in the third quarter and played little thereafter, leaving both teams in the hands of freshman quarterbacks. With four minutes left, Ramadan — having found his rhythm — hit Jalen Wilkes for 16 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

The Johns Hopkins football team, ranked seventh in Division III, scored on six of its seven first-half possessions to build a 38-0 halftime lead and defeated visiting Gettysburg, 54-14, on Friday night to set a Centennial Conference record with its 34th straight league victory.

Morgan State had two more chances. A fumble by quarterback DeAndre Harris killed one drive, and the interception, with 10 seconds remaining, squelched the other.

"We were in control going into the second half, but we blew it. We've got to play better at the end," said Washington, who contributed a pick and a sack. "If we can learn how to finish, we're going to win some games."

Harrell agreed.

"We beat ourselves," said the sophomore, who ran 21 times for 121 yards, including a 57-yarder that set up the Bears' first touchdown.

"He [Harrell] did a good job," Farrier said. "He was patient and found some creases and holes. It has been awhile since we had a 100-yard rusher. We've got to use him to extend some drives and score some points.

"It's disappointing to not come away with a win on homecoming, but we are our own worst enemy. Teams aren't lining up and beating us from start to finish. With us, it's like playing golf — the opponent is almost immaterial. It's really just us and the ball. If we hit and swing and execute our game plan, we'll be fine."


Recommended on Baltimore Sun