SAVANNAH, Ga. - Morgan State Coach Donald Hill-Eley and running back Travis Davidson had an enjoyable homecoming of sorts Saturday night at the expense of Savannah State University.
After a sluggish first half Morgan State (3-2, 2-0) exploded in the third quarter and coasted to a 45-6 win over the winless Tigers (0-5, 0-3) in a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference game before 1,978 fans at T.A. Wright Stadium.
The Bears led 14-6 at the half, but used a 38-yard kickoff return by Tyrone Hendrix to jump start a 24-point outburst in the third quarter.
"It was tough all week trying to focus on ourselves," Hill-Eley said. "They see the guys in Savannah not have much success, and instead of playing with a sledgehammer we came out and just played around.
"In the second half we played at our level and not down to their," Hill-Eley said. "As the game went on we overpowered them. They're much improved over last year, but I knew our kids would fight.
"We were only up eight, but it was just a matter of time before these kids were going to say, ‘We're not going to lose."
Hill-Eley said he had a lot of family in Ludowici, Ga., which is a small town of approximately 3,000 about 45 miles south of Savannah.
"I had a lot of family and friends here," Hill-Eley said. "I didn't grow up here, but I've still got family there."
Morgan State had 140 yards total offense in the first, 101 on the ground, but exploded in the third quarter behind the running of Georgia native Travis Davidson's three touchdowns.
The Bears netted 103 yards rushing in the third quarter with Davidson, the leading rusher in the MEAC scoring on runs of 1, 80, and 7-yards. Davidson had 115 yards on 10 carries after getting only 10 on three attempts in the first half. He did not play in the fourth quarter.
Morgan State finished with 368 yards, 272 rushing, while limited Savannah State to 248, only 77 in the second half.
"We just got our minds right at halftime," Davidson said. "Coach just came in and told us to play at our tempo, and our level of play, and to focus."
Tyrone Hendrix returned the second half kickoff 36 yards to the Savannah State 29, and six plays later Davidson scored to put the rout in motion.
Following a Tiger punt he hit into the middle of the line, bounced outside and streaked down the left sideline for the longest scoring run of his Morgan State career.
"I was just trying not to get tackled behind the line," Davidson said. "I felt sure I would get bounced out of bounds, but no one caught me."
Davidson, who claims to have 4.38 seconds speed in the 40-yard dash, also had several friends and family members waiting for him after the game.
"I went to high school in Michigan," said the Bear standout, "but I was born and raised in Griffin, Ga., which is about 40 miles from Atlanta. It was good to have a game like this in Georgia."
Davidson now has 514 yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
Morgan State is now one of teams unbeaten in conference play, and is 2-0 in the MEAC for the first time since 2009.
The Bears spotted the Tigers, who are last in the MEAC in nearly every offensive and defensive category, an early 6-0 lead, but special teams kept Morgan State in the hunt while it solved its offensive problems.
Chris Flowers returned the kickoff following SSU quarterback Antonio Bostick's 1-yard scoring run 88 yards for a touchdown.
Morgan State's second touchdown came as the result of a 10-yard punt that gave the Bears the ball at the Tiger 21.
From there Brian Mann capped a five-play drive with a 4-yard run with 1 minute, 50 seconds before the half.
"There was nothing about our special teams," Tiger Coach Steve Davenport said. "Special teams have been an issue all year. They've put us in bad situations."
NOTES: Cornerback Joe Rankin foiled Savannah State's first drive of the game with an interception in the end zone. It was his MEAC league leading fourth of the year, and ninth of his career. ... Former Baltimore Ravens tight end and NFL Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe was a Division II All America at Savannah State and is its best known football alumnus. ... Hill-Eley is in his 11th season as head coach at Morgan State while Davenport is the Tigers' sixth coach during the same span. ... Christopher Robinson led the Bears in tackles with 8 while Jerry Jones had 7 and Blandon Roberts and Allen Stephens had five each. ... Earvin Gonzalez scored nine points on six extra points and a field goal while averaging 41.6 yards on five punts.