It’s been a difficult ride for Mississippi Valley State coach Karl Morgan.
In the three-plus seasons since Morgan came to Itta Bena, Miss., his Delta Devils have accumulated a 6-29 record.
At 4 p.m. Saturday, when they face Southern at Rice-Totten Stadium, Morgan will try to grab win No. 7.
A Houma native and Vandebilt Catholic graduate, Morgan knew he was about to take on a tough assignment when he left his post as defensive coordinator at Division II North Alabama to take over at Valley in 2010.
Though his first team threw the occasional scare into some Southwestern Athletic Conference opponents, the Devils went winless.
Since then, however, they’ve seen small-but-significant signs of improvement.
In 2011, Valley suffered near-miss losses against Prairie View, Southern, Jackson State and Grambling, dropping all four games by nine or fewer points. They grabbed their first win of the Morgan era later that season, finishing 1-10.
Last season, the Devils took a big step forward, finising 5-6 overall. They’ve won three of their last four conference games.
“It was a big confidence builder for our team,” Morgan said. “At the end of last year, I felt like we were heading on the right track.”
Valley’s lone loss in that span came last week at the hands of Alcorn State, a game the Devils led comfortably after 30 minutes (they wound up losing 35-28).
“Last week’s game was a great disappointment,” Morgan said. “We led 21-7 at halftime and gave up 28 points in the second half. It’s disappointing in the fact that we didn’t finish.
“Over here, we have to take small victories. Defensively, in the first half, we played real well. In the second half, we got a little worn down.”
It was the second straight week in which Valley faded after halftime. The team yielded 49 second-half points in the two games combined.
Facing a Southern squad that accumulated 49 points from the last play of the third quarter through two overtimes in a 62-59 victory over Prairie View, Morgan expressed concern over the Devils’ need to slow down the Jaguars.
“What we’re needing to do in the second half, we’re not doing,” Morgan said. “We’re facing a Southern team that scored 60-plus points, and they’ve got a real good quarterback and real good receivers.”
“It’s a really (an) offensively talented football team,” Morgan said. “We’ve got our hands full this weekend. We desperately need a win.”
But Morgan said he has little concern with his team moving forward, citing his team’s experience across the board.
“We have plenty of guys who have been around for a couple years, so I think they’ll keep fighting,” he said.
Valley is led by quarterback Patrick Ivey, who threw for 152 yards and ran for another 79 to go along with three touchdowns in last week’s defeat at Alcorn.
“Our quarterback threw three touchdown passes last week,” Morgan said. “I don’t think we’ve had a guy throw three touchdowns since I’ve been here.”
Yet Morgan said Ivey still has plenty of room to improve.
“He’s a work in progress,” Morgan said, “just like a lot of our other guys.”
Morgan is hopeful to utilize Ivey’s dual-threat capabilities to exploit the Southern rush defense, which ranks 108th nationally.
“It’s like I told the coaches: It’s not a weakness unless you can exploit it,” Morgan said. “Hopefully we can take advantage of it.”
A handful of seats are still available for the 6th Man Club’s bus trip to Valley. The cost is $115 and includes a game ticket. The bus leaves from 4523 Plank Road at 6 a.m. Saturday. For information, call Anna Jones at (225) 907-7212, Freddie Green at (225) 421-5637 or Elijah Wilkinson at (225) 355-5249.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved