New York Urban League Football Classic – My Recap

Posted: September 25, 2011 by sirdiggy in sports
Tags: , , , , ,

Greetings again.  Chuck Spears has been encouraging me to do some sports recaps for the blog, because he remembers that once upon a time I wanted to be a sportscaster.  I’m still a sports fan, but I don’t watch games as much as I have in the past .  In essence I’ve become a passive follower; for example, instead of watching the Eagles-Giants game right now, I’m writing this recap while my three-year old niece sits next to me writing (more like drawing) in a notebook – it’s one way she likes to spend time with me.

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So yesterday’s game was the 40th year of the New York Urban League Classic which pitted my alma-mater, Morgan State University, against our arch-rival Howard University.  The MSU Bears climbed to a 14-0 lead before halftime but needed to hang on for dear life to escape with a 14-9 victory.  There’s two ways to look at this game: on the MSU side, how on earth do you come up with SIX – yes, six – takeaways and only score 14 points off of them?  If that sounds like the product of inept offense, then you’re right.  The first touchdown was off a sack-and-fumble recovery which was returned 18 yards for the score by Michael Dallas; the second was a three-yard touchdown pass set up by another HU turnover and MSU’s longest play of the game, an excellent 46-yard catch-and-run by receiver Lamont Bryant.  Other than that, MSU had trouble sustaining drives and generating consistent offense, even with all the free field position the Bison generously offered in the first half with their fumbling (my eyes counted four cough-ups). And to add further insult, the Bears missed two field goal – both attempts were from a little less than 40 yards out.

On the Howard Bison side, you could reasonably theorize that had they NOT fumbled the ball so much in the first half, they could’ve scored a few times within the half and perhaps won the game going away.  When HU decided to run their offense no-huddle from the second quarter on, they were able to move the ball on the ground and through the air.  ESPN’s stats confirms what my eyes witnessed: the Bison out-gained the Bears in passing (226 to 136), rushing (149 to 51) and obviously total yardage (375 to 187).  In the second and third quarters, the Bison were able to drive deep into Bears’ territory only to have their drives stalled by mistimed or dropped passes along with two missed field goal attempts of their own.  The Bison, however, got on the board in the third via a blocked punt in the end zone for a safety.  In the fourth quarter, their no-huddle strategy finally paid off as they capped off their best drive of the day with a 16-yard touchdown pass to wideout Willie Carter, who led all receivers with 97 yards on nine catches.  Morgan was unable to answer, and ultimately Howard got the ball back with a chance to take the lead.  With 4th-and-goal from the MSU 7-yard line, the Bison completed a pass to the outside but the receiver was tackled two yards shy of the goal line, giving the Bears the ball with 1:53 left in the game and no timeouts left by Howard.

OTHER OBSERVATIONS:  I thought the Bears QB’s (Robert Council and Seth Higgins) looked skittish at times inside the pocket, and the passing game didn’t do anything to loosen up the Bison defense which shut down MSU’s running game – I also just looked on both ESPN.com and the MSU site and learned that both QB’s are freshmen (starter Rob Council a redshirt) which might explain a lot.  Both teams ran a lot of option-based plays, and I thought Howard was definitely better in running theirs.  No team should ever – and I mean ever –  win a football game with a net minus-4 in turnovers, but Bison senior running-back Terrence Leffall was one of the reasons they came close, rushing for 145 yards on 27 attempts; Morgan could not stop him in the fourth quarter.  One of my fellow MSU alums believed there were a lot of nervousness on display during the game: he claimed that for a lot of these kids, the venue (MetLife Stadium) and the crowd on hand (a hair under 25,000 at 24,996) was the biggest the players had ever experienced.  Most Division 1-AA HBCU’s have issues recruiting decent kickers, because well, if the kicker is decent, then he’ll be at a 1-A school.  I bring this up point to temper my own beliefs that any placekicker worth his salt should be able to hit from inside 40-yards out at a decent clip.  Both schools missed two field goals apiece, with the Howard kicker missing what looked like a 20 to 23-yard chip shot.  Howard left two timeouts on the board at the end of the first half, which I thought was a mistake.  What actually happened was Morgan punted the ball back to the Bison with under a minute to go, and on first down, it looked like Howard was going to try to move the ball quickly.  They didn’t get much, and they burned their first timeout only to kneel down on second down to end the half.  Why not call the first timeout sooner when the Bears had the ball to give your offense a little more time to run some sort of two-minute drill?  At that point in the game Howard should have realized their no-huddle attack could move the ball against Morgan; if you’re only down by two scores, why not take a shot?

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