It's the most highly-anticipated game that we're all waiting for: the first game played on the infamous gray turf at Rynearson Stadium. The Morgan State Bears will make the trip from Baltimore to play against the Eagles, led by first-year head coach Chris Creighton.
Morgan State Bears 2013 Rewind:
The Bears got off to a terrible 0-5 start last year, but ended the season with a 5-7 overall record. All five wins came against in-conference opponents, and were only 2-6 when playing on the road.
MSU's nickname is the Bears. The mascot's name is... the Bear. That's it. Just the Bear. Not "Sparty the Spartan "Swoop the Eagle" or "Rufus the Buckeye beater-upper" or "Avocado the blogger" or even "we're Michigan, we don't need no friggen mascot for God's sake". Just the Bear.
The Bears play in ever-dangerous Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, which is the pronounced "me-ack", I think. But if you didn't know, the MEAC only includes schools that are historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). See, you learned something today. Split between the North and South divisions, MSU is in the North with Coppin State, Delaware State, Hampton, Howard, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Norfolk State.
Last Bowl Appearance:
You know, it's not easy trying to find this kind of stuff. I can tell you that the school's first bowl win was in the 1966 Tangerine Bowl (now Capital One Bowl) under Earl "Papa Bear" Banks, who is now in the College Football Hall of Fame. This is important because this was the first time a HBCU school to play in and win a bowl game.
Morgan State is 2-3 in their bowl game history, outside of Banks leading the school to four bowl games, I can't tell you when the fifth and most recent bowl appearance was.
We already know Chris Creighton will be making his debut as EMU's head coach, but the same can be said for MSU's Lee Hull. Since 2008, he has been a part of Maryland's coaching staff acting as their wide receivers coach, where he helped groom early-round NFL Draftees Darrius Heyward-Bey and Torry Smith. Other professional receivers he coached at Maryland include LaQuan Williams, Tony Logan, and Quintin McCree. He's also coached running backs and wide receivers at Oregon State for a few years.
Five Key Players:
Seth Higgins, Quarterback
Cody Acker, Linebacker
Thomas Martin, Wide Receiver
Lawrence Forbes, Punter
Lamont Brown III, Running Back
Style-wise, I couldn't tell you if they'll be running the spread, pistol, I-formation, or anything like that. It's not easy to tell what their playbook is going to look like, especially when they play in the MEAC, and even more especially when they have a new head coach who has basically been just a positions coach. But, from looking at the stats from 2013, they sure did love to run the ball. As a team, they ran the ball 538 times for 2,193 yards and had 226 pass attempts for 1,523 yards.
I can tell you that there's a quarterback battle between Robert Council and Seth Higgins. Both are on their final year of eligibility and obviously don't want to share playing time. Higgins was the team's leading passer, completing 52 percent of his passes for 609 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Council, about the same with a 53 percent completion rate with 598 yards, but only tossed two touchdowns with four interceptions. Higgins carried the ball 102 times for 47 yards, scoring five times. Council had one less carry for 449 yards, also for five touchdowns.
Lamont Brown made the All-MEAC Third Team last year as a redshirt freshman. Playing in all 12 games for the Bears, he rushed for 708 net yards and had five touchdowns. He also had 4.9 yards per carry, which is not too shabby. He's not used as a receiving back all too often, as he only had one catch for 21 yards.
Martin Thomas was the team's leading receiver last year and will be back in action this year. He caught 28 passes for 352 yards last year while tight end Nate Ingram caught 17 passes for 160 yards. Ingram has two touchdowns to show for, Thomas has none.
Again, I know nothing about their defensive schemes. I'll find that out when this game is played, but until then my answer is just going to be ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Senior Cody Acker was a Third Team All-MEAC honoree last year as a linebacker. Head and shoulders above everybody else on the team with 97 total tackles (65 solo), he had 10.5 tackles for loss (loss of 27 yards), 1.5 sacks, one interception, and three forced fumbles.
They've even got an all-conference punter on the roster. The common football fan can look at that and say "so what, who cares?", but good punters that can pin it inside the other team's 20-yard line with some regularity is good for a healthy defense.
Lawrence Forbes made the First Team All-MEAC roster last year, punting the ball 52 times for the season. Yes, 52 times. A total of 2,277 yards, he had a long of 78, he had 11 go for over 50 yards, 15 landed inside the 20-yard line and only two ended in touch backs.
Creighton's coach speak says that he has no idea who's going to be EMU's starting quarterback, but he'll play the best guy that the moment because he wants to put the best 11 guys that are willing to die for the guy next to him and blah blah blah. Barring any injury, everybody knows that this is now Brogan Roback's going to be the starter since Tyler Benz isn't there to impede on any of Roback's playing time. And this will be his time to shine and make a name for himself on the new gray playing surface. I've got Eastern Michigan winning this one 27-13.