The Morgan State football team got the tune-up it needed before starting the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference portion of its schedule.
The Bears scored 37 points in the first half en route to a 44-10 romp over visiting Virginia-Lynchburg on Saturday afternoon before an announced 2,576 at Hughes Stadium in Baltimore.
With the victory, Morgan State is 2-2 to begin a season for the first time since the 2016 squad also opened with a 2-2 record. The program also won back-to-back games for the first time since 2019.
As much as the Bears outclassed the Dragons of the National Christian College Athletic Association, Saturday’s performance was a welcomed showing in preparation of the team’s MEAC opener against visiting Norfolk State (0-5) on Saturday.
“You always want to have a ton of confidence and feel good about yourself going into conference play,” graduate student quarterback Carson Baker said. “I think we did that offensively today and defensively. So we’re ready for our conference schedule. We know that we’ve got a good Norfolk team and we’ve got an NC Central team is very good. For us, we’re just trying to win every week and go 1-0. That’s the big mindset for us.”
The 37-point outburst in the first half was the most scored by Morgan State in the opening frame since Sept. 19, 2015, when that squad racked up 47 points en route to an eventual 61-0 shutout of Virginia-Lynchburg. The 44 total points were the most since Nov. 17, 2018, when that team walked away with a 44-27 win against Norfolk State.
“It’s very important to show teams what we’re made of so that they know that we’re not coming to play around,” sophomore defensive end Elijah Williams said. “We’re here to actually win the MEAC.”
The outcome also seemed to settle a couple questions for the Bears. The offense was much more efficient under Baker than backup Duce Taylor.
Baker, a graduate student, directed the unit to 276 yards and four touchdowns while completing 10 of 14 passes for 160 yards and three scores and rushing seven times for 24 yards. Taylor, who had replaced Baker in the second half of Morgan State’s 24-9 victory over Sacred Heart on Sept. 17, guided the offense to only 89 yards and one touchdown, finishing 4-for-13 for 83 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
“We put an emphasis on wanting to push the ball downfield early and take shots early, and we hit on a couple of them,” said Baker, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first half against Sacred Heart. “We started really well and stayed on pace. We wanted to keep ourselves in good downs, and we did that early, and it worked out.”
The defense stifled the Dragons offense, which averaged only 3.0 yards per play (200 yards on 66 plays). Five Bears earned one sack each, sophomore cornerback Carlvainski Decius intercepted his second pass in as many games and junior outside linebacker Lawrence Richardson had a game-high seven tackles.
“We came into this game knowing that we were going to dominate,” said Williams, who compiled five tackles, three tackles for loss and one sack. “We just had to keep that mindset that nobody could really block us. As long as we believe that, we can do that with any team.”
Finally, the Bears have much work to do in the discipline department. After entering the game with 24 penalties for 248 yards, they were flagged 17 times for a loss of 224 yards, and sophomore middle linebacker Keshawn Scott was ejected for targeting with 8:09 left in the second quarter. In the third quarter alone, they lost 116 yards on six infractions.
“It’s big time,” coach Damon Wilson said. “When you lose 200 yards in penalties, that’s 200 yards that could have been yards gained. That’s opportunities for us to get more offensive snaps and/or get the defense off the football field. Those are signs of a team that is not disciplined yet and a team that needs to continue to focus on the little things, and once we do those things, the games will be a lot easier for us.”
Morgan State pounced on the Dragons early. On the offense’s first possession of the first quarter, Baker hit sophomore wide receiver Tyler Wilkins on a 14-yard fade route to the back right corner of the end zone on fourth-and-goal for a 7-0 lead with 9:21 remaining. The unit had lost a combined 24 yards due to a backwards pass on first down and a sack on second.
The Bears then erupted for 16 points in a span of 49 seconds. First, senior running back Alfonzo Graham, a Baltimore resident and Dunbar graduate, raced 9 yards off left tackle to increase his team’s advantage to 14-0 with 1:40 left in the opening quarter.
Then, Williams and sophomore nose Ted Windom combined to sack quarterback Alvaro Ortega-Morales in the end zone for a safety with 1:05 remaining. Ortega-Morales started as freshman CJ Brooks, who had passed for 722 yards and one touchdown against just one interception in four games, was absent.
After the ensuing kickoff, Baker connected with graduate student wide receiver Avery Jones on a deep post route for a 49-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left. After that display, Morgan State took a 23-0 lead into the second quarter.
The Bears scored two more touchdowns in the period. Baker found sophomore wide receiver Daymond Hamler in the back left corner of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown and a 30-0 cushion with 8:21 remaining.
On the ensuing Dragons possession with the offense facing fourth-and-15 from its own 19, punter Devin Woolsey dropped the snap, and freshman Maurice Crutchfield scooped up the loose ball at the 6 and raced into the end zone for a 37-0 advantage with 5:49 left.
Virginia-Lynchburg finally responded. Shonny Nelson, the offense’s third quarterback of the game, took advantage of a safety blitz by Morgan State and hit wide receiver Ronnie Faison in stride along the right sideline for a 59-yard touchdown with 3:40 remaining.
MORGAN STATE@NORFOLK STATE
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Radio: 88.9 FM