Morgan electrifies crowd with punt return for TD
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Joseph Morgan had to wait a few extra agonizing minutes Friday night at the Superdome before officials confirmed his first NFL touchdown.
Morgan electrified the sellout crowd of 72,578 with a 78-yard punt return with 14:03 remaining in the first half to extend the Saints lead to 10-0 against the San Francisco 49ers.
Morgan, from tiny Walsh University in Canton, Ohio, broke three tackles en route to the end zone where he casually tossed the ball into the Black and Gold crowd.
In keeping with changes adopted by NFL ownership in March, all scoring plays will now be reviewed by replay officials.
As a result, game officials scrutinized whether Morgan stepped out in front of the 49ers sideline.
When replays showed Morgan stayed inside the lines, the native of Canton, Ohio, home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, flashed a big smile on the Saints sideline.
Sitting it out
A handful of players did not play Friday night because of previous injuries: WR Marques Colston (knee), CB Tracy Porter (knee), RB Chris Ivory (foot/sports hernia), CB Fabian Washington (hamstring), LB Clint Ingram (hamstring), LB Ezra Butler (hamstring/sports hernia), WR Adrian Arrington (ankle).
Who Dat Nation
Friday night’s paid crowd of 72,578 established a Saints’ benchmark at the Superdome, eclipsing the previous high of 72,434 for their first exhibition game at the stadium on Aug. 6, 1975, a 13-7 loss to the Houston Oilers.
Saints defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, a free-agent acquisition from the 49ers, served as one of three game captains along with defensive end Will Smith and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Niners’ kicker David Akers made a big splash with one second remaining in the first half when his 59-yard field-goal attempt barely cleared the crossbar in the Poydras Street end zone.
Did you notice?
Saints rookie running back Mark Ingram, the 28th overall pick from Alabama, left the field to a warm ovation after running for a 2-yard gain early in the first quarter. He later scored on a twisting 14-yard scoring run and finished his night’s work with six carries for 23 yards and one catch for 4 yards. He did have a drop on a pass in the right flat in the third quarter. … The Saints’ starting defense played four series and did not allow a first down. … A Thomas Morestead punt that was blocked in the third quarter was nullified because of a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty.
Former LSU players Curtis Taylor and Ricky Jean Francois are members of the 49ers defense along with former Tulane standout Phillip Davis.
Francois started at nose tackle, while Taylor is a backup free safety.
Davis is a reserve cornerback who signed with the Niners just last week.
The Saints are off Saturday and will return to the practice field Sunday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will be closed to the public.
Rookie cornerback Johnny Patrick, the team’s third-round draft pick from Louisville, was carted off the sideline to the locker room with an injured right knee at the end of the third quarter. The severity of the injury is unknown.
Advocate Publisher David Manship presented the Peoples Health Champion award during the first quarter Friday night to longtime New Orleans entertainer Chris Owens. The award is given to a person who has used his or her life experiences to perform an amazing achievement after the age of 65. Manship is a member of the 10-person selection committee. ... Two familiar faces were on the Niners’ coaching staff — defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, longtime assistant at New Orleans under Jim Mora, and former LSU standout Greg Jackson, in his first year as assistant secondary coach.