|(photo by Jamal Jackson/Delaware State)|
Who would have predicted this at the beginning of the 2014 season?
Morgan State, a football program that has only had four winning seasons since winning the MEAC title in 1979, is now on its way to the NCAA FCS playoffs after finishing 2014 in a first place conference tie.
The Bears (7-5) powered past hapless Delaware State 69-7 Saturday to finish the MEAC season with a 6-2 conference mark. They finish in first, tied with the same MEAC record as North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, South Carolina Stat and Bethune-Cookman. The Bears hadn't finished above .500 since 2009.
It's the third MEAC conference title for Morgan State, going with their 1979 title and their 1971 championship.
“When they hired me, they wanted to restore the greatness of the football program,” Morgan State head coach Lee Hull told the Baltimore Sun. “They had a great legacy in the ‘60s, ‘70s and early ‘80s, and that’s where they wanted to be. Our goal was to win the MEAC championship and return this program back to greatness. To get it in my first year, you always strive for that, but to get it in my first year is a great experience.”
It was just one piece of a puzzle on a crazy day in MEAC football.
The first domino fell when Morgan State destroyed the Hornets as quarterback Moses Skillon threw for 261 yards and five touchdowns and ran 64 yards and a sixth TD.
Then cross-town rivals North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T hooked up. North Carolina A&T was alone in first place in the MEAC at the start of the day, already with a share of the MEAC title, only needing to defeat Central to win the MEAC outright and head to the NCAA FCS playoffs.
With 4:31 left and down 21-14, A&T was driving and got to the NCCU 20-yard line. But A&T's Tarik Cohen, who rushed for 203 yards and two touchdowns on the day, got hit by the Eagle's Ty Brown, fumbling the ball and turning over to North Carolina Central who salted the game away.
Not long after that, South Carolina State, a team that seemed headed towards a title but lost a close game to Morgan State two weeks ago, came from behind to defeat Norfolk State 30-20. The Spartans had led 10-9 early in the second quarter but were outscored the rest of the way 21-10. Jalen Simmons rushed for two touchdowns for the Bulldogs, who finish the regular season 9-3 overall.
And in a game that was scoreless at halftime, Bethune-Cookman's
After all that, five teams - North Carolina A&T, Morgan State, Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State and North Carolina Central - all finished with 6-2 records and a share of the MEAC title. Never have so many teams finished tied for first in the MEAC and been co-champions.Eefore this year, only twice has as many as three teams shard the MEAC title: Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M and South Carolina State shared the title in 2010 and Bethune-Cookman, Delaware State and Florida A&M shared the title in 1988. Three other times, two teams shared the conference title.
Morgan State will wait to see who they will play in the NCAA playoffs while North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman, both with 9-3 records, hope for at-large bids to the playoffs.
“We just made our case,” said North Carolina A&T head coach Rod Broadway. “We had an opportunity to speak volumes and we just didn’t. We are going to let the committee do their job the best they can as we did the best we can today. We had a chance to get into the playoffs ourselves and we didn’t. We don’t have anyone to fault but ourselves.”
The playoff field will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 23 at 11 a.m. EST.
Howard 30, Hampton 29 (John Fleck kicked a 17-yard field goal with 21 seconds left to life Howard to a thrilling victory in the Battle of the REAL HU. Quarterback Greg McGhee and running back Aquanius Freeman had touchdowns that brought the Bison back from a 26-7 third quarter deficit. Freeman rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns while McGhee threw for 157 yards and rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown to end his Bison career as the MEAC total offense leader. He finishes with 10,168 rushing and passing yards.)
Brigham Young 64, Savannah State 0 (This game was a mismatch from the start. Savannah State, which had the worst defense in the MEAC and one of the worst offenses, finishes 2014 with no wins. Christian Stewart threw four touchdown passes and ran for another for BYU, which led 51-0 at halftime. Nate Carter rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown. While BYU had 556 yards of total offense, SSU only had 76 - 28 passing and 38 rushing)
Alabama State 30, Stillman 29 (
Jackson State 34, Alcorn State 31 (
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 20, Alabama A&M 19 (
Tennessee State 48, Murray State 33 (Tennessee State finishes the season 6-6, but after pulling away early, they made it interesting as Murray State whittled down an early big lead. But TSU quarterback Michael German threw for 463 yards and six touchdowns, with Ryan Mitchell catching 10 passes for 231 yards and three TDs. Murray's KD Humphries was valiant in defeat, throwing for 467 yards and five touchdowns. Murray scored 20 fourth-quarter points to make a blowout interesting. German finishes his TSU career as the school's all-time leading passer with 8,664 yards.)
Grand View (Iowa) 38, Langston 3 (In the first round of the NAIA playoffs, 16th seeded Langston was no match for No. 2 seed Grandview, a 9-1 team that hasn't lost to an NAIA team this season. The Vikings only gave up only 149 yards of offense to Langston on a cold, snowy day in which they dominated on offense and defense. Langston ends the season with a 7-3 record)