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Late defensive stand ends Alcorn’s four-game slide

LORMAN — Alcorn State accomplished what it needed to Saturday against Southern University by snapping a four-game losing skid.

But the game ended up being much closer than Alcorn would have liked.

With just one touchdown in the second half, the Braves survived a late Jaguars surge with a last-minute defensive stop to escape with a 27-20 win.

“A win is a win is a win, and I’ll take it any way I can, but (we still made) mistakes,” Braves head coach Earnest Collins said.

“Today, the difference in the mistakes we made the last few weeks is, we had a better defense out there to make up for it.”

With Alcorn only leading by seven late in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars had gotten to the Alcorn 10-yard line with less than 1:30 to go. After getting it to the Alcorn 4 on third down, the Jaguars needed a touchdown to tie the game on fourth and goal. Southern quarterback Dray Joseph hit fullback Lee Mitchell in the flat, but Alcorn’s Jameson Smith was there to greet him.

Smith tackled Mitchell on the 2-yard line, and the Braves took over on downs, letting the clock run out to end the game.

The drive started when Alcorn quarterback Brandon Bridge was intercepted by Southern’s Cameron Booker, who returned the ball to the Alcorn 43. Joseph then made several big throws to get the Jaguars to the 10-yard line.

“I’ve been saying it since we started the young man in the third game of the year,” Collins said. “We’re going to live and die with his mistakes until he learns in his head that he doesn’t have to make every play.

“More than likely, he probably saw something that wasn’t there. Whenever you get in that situation, especially at that time in the game, you have to throw the ball away. Live to see another down.”

Coming out with a 20-3 lead in the second half, Alcorn scored it’s final touchdown of the game with 10:26 left in the third on a 1-yard run by Terrance Lewis.

The Jaguars took their ensuing possession 49 yards down the field on six plays for their first touchdown of the game. Southern’s Nzekwe Sylveste scored on a 5-yard run to make it 27-10 Alcorn with 7:59 left in the third.

Southern started making things interesting in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Dray Joseph hit Corey Cushingberry for a 54-yard touchdown pass with 10:56 left to cut Alcorn’s lead to 27-17.

Hoping to extend their lead, the Braves made it all the way inside the Southern 35 on the following possession. However, Bridge attempted to pitch the ball on an option play, but the running back bobbled the pitch, fumbling the ball on the Southern 29.

The Jaguars recovered the fumble and drove 66 yards down field before kicker William Griswold kicked a 22-yard field goal making it 27-20 Alcorn with 5:26 to go.

“I told our guys at the beginning of the game, if we execute on offense and we tackle on defense, we’ll win.” Collins said.

“We gave up a couple of big plays there in the fourth quarter, but to the kids’ credit, when it counted, on fourth and four, we made a stop and got off the field.”

The Braves scored first with 3:34 left in the first quarter. With first goal on the Southern 17-yard line, Gabriel Nash took the ball in to put Alcorn up 7-0.

Southern responded on its next drive with a 49-yard field goal by Griswold to cut the Braves’ lead to 7-3 with 1:06 left in the first.

Alcorn extended the lead 10-3 with 13:04 with a 32-yard field goal by Arturo Tamayo.

On the ensuing Jaguars possession, Alcorn’s Jason Owens intercepted a pass on the Southern 22-yard line with 11:01 to go before the break. After a holding penalty pushed the Braves back 10 yards, Bridge threw an incomplete pass before rushing for 17-yards on second down.

On third and three, Bridge completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jaquez Caldwell to put the Braves up 17-3 with 10:18 left in the second. Tamayo kicked his second field goal, a 27-yarder, with two seconds to go before the half to give Alcorn a 20-3 lead.

With the win, Alcorn improves to 4-4 on the season, 3-3 in SWAC play. Southern drops to 2-6 on the season, 1-5 in the SWAC.

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