Thought It Was a Drought? Maroon Tigers Outshine Golden Tigers in Columbus
Roderick Diamond II, Associate Sports Editor
COLUMBUS – Words, facial expressions and hand gestures cannot begin to describe the game that took place in A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Long story short, the Maroon Tigers’ season has been nothing less than a roller coaster ride of excitement for players, fans and students that has no signs of slowing down after their 30-24 triple-overtime victory over Tuskegee in the 83rd Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic. The Tigers’ 6-0 start is the team’s best since 2010, when they had a five-game winning streak before falling to, guess who, Tuskegee.
But this is a new year, a new season, a new Morehouse. Last week, the Maroon Tigers won a come-from-behind battle against the Thorobreds at Kentucky State University. The week prior, Morehouse’s game winner was a 39-yard “Hail Mary” touchdown pass on the last play against Miles College.
The last time Morehouse defeated Tuskegee was in the 2011 season, when Morehouse fought back from 14 down and tacked on 17 points for the win. Ever since, there had been shortcomings and disappointments. 2018 had a better, but stressful ending.
The first half of the game was a stalemate that ended at 10-10. As a swarm of flags seemed to storm nearly every single play against Morehouse, the Maroon Tigers racked up 108 yards worth of penalties, 67 coming in the first half. It still did not stop the Maroon Tigers’ stats from being up to par with the Golden Tigers.
Ground game was dominant in the first half with several different players from both sides getting their hands on the rock. Over 200 yards was accounted for and the passing game did not come alive until the second half.
Tuskegee protected a lead of 17-10 until a late 5-yard touchdown pass from running back Frank Bailey Jr. reached the fingertips of wide receiver Tremell Gooden in the corner of the end zone. With 1:33 left, overtime was a foreseeable future at the before 27,563 deeply loyal fans of both teams.
Now only a score and a stop in overtime separated either team from victory. After neither team scored in the first overtime, Tuskegee struck with a 10-yard reverse play that caught the Maroon Tiger defense off guard. Morehouse’s star running back Santo Dunn returned the favor by grinding out a 16-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 24 all and send it to triple OT.
Morehouse had control the following possession and Dunn sealed the deal with a hat-trick third touchdown, a 14-yarder. Dunn finished the game with a monster 152 yards, including a 42-yard run that was the game’s longest scoring play.
“We never stopped,” Dunn said. “We never gave up even through adversity. We still overcame it and I’m just so thankful and glad.”
Coach Rich Freeman called Dunn a “difference maker” but gave praise to the offensive line that sometimes gets overlooked as a reason for Dunn’s success.
The defense also must be recognized for its endless efforts. A total of 71 tackles and seven sacks were collected by persistent Morehouse defenders.
Senior linebacker Antonio Johnson, who has been outstanding all season, had six tackles, three sacks and five quarterback hurries. Junior linebacker Julien Turner had a game-high 12 tackles and one sack.
Turner and Treyvon Luckey finished off Tuskegee with the last tackle of the game when they pushed back a Tuskegee rusher on a 4th-and-1 play. Morehouse fans erupted with joy, the field was rushed and the drought was over.
The victory was nothing short of a classic, and one for the ages for Morehouse students, alumni and fans to brag about forever. Next, the Maroon Tigers go for 7-0 in a 6 p.m. home game against Albany State.
NOTES: The Morehouse cross country team won the Robert Shumake HBCU Challenge on Saturday in Cary, N.C., by beating out 15 other schools. Maroon Tigers Trey Simons finished first, Collins Kiplimo sixth and Randy Carter ninth.