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Alcorn falls to Alabama A&M

Alcorn State University’s Brandon Thompson recovers the fumble before Alabama A&M’s Terrence Pride can get to the ball Saturday afternoon at Jack Spinks Stadium. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

LORMAN — The Alcorn State defense did its part to pull off a SWAC upset of Alabama A&M Saturday afternoon at Jack Spinks Marino Casem Stadium, but the offense gave away two turnovers for touchdowns and was unable to put up enough points to get the Braves the win.

“I thought we came out and fought like champions,” Braves’ head coach Melvin Spears said. “We just can’t afford to make the little mistakes we made.”

Alcorn jumped out to a 7-0 lead early, but Alabama A&M was able to take the lead by the end of the first quarter with a 49-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a 30-yard interception return for a score.

The Braves fought back to tie, but the Bulldogs were too much for the Braves in the fourth quarter and added two touchdowns to win 28-14.

Despite being on the field for more than 36 minutes, the Alcorn defense gave up just 354 yards in the game and forced two Bulldog turnovers.

“The defense gave us an opportunity,” Spears said. “The offense just couldn’t sustain drives to give them a break, but our defense played lights out.”

Offensively the Braves finished with 285 total yards and three turnovers. Alcorn really struggled through the air, as quarterback Darius Smith completed just nine of 31 passes for 101 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Spears said his team moved the ball effectively at times, but inconsistency caused drives to stall and kept the Braves out of the end zone.

The Braves started the scoring on their first possession when Smith found Terrance Lewis on a 10-yard touchdown strike. The pass capped off a nine-play, 72-yard drive. Arturo Tamayo’s extra point gave the Braves the early 7-0 lead.

After stopping the Bulldogs on the following possession, the Braves advanced the ball to near midfield before a fumble by running back Arnold Walker was scooped up by Alabama A&M’s Rico Porch and taken 49 yards for a score. Chance Wilson’s extra point tied the game at 7-7.

Alcorn’s next offensive play resulted in another Alabama A&M score when Clarence Morris stepped in front of a pass intended for Rodney Whitmore Jr. and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead.

Alabama A&M’s Torey Smith reaches for the pass with Alcorn State University’s Brandon Thompson defending Saturday afternoon at Jack Spinks Stadium. (Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat)

Both teams traded punts for much of the remainder of the half after Morris’ interception return, but Alcorn’s ability to win the field possession battle finally paid off with 3:55 left in the first half when Anthony Williams took a handoff on the opening play of the drive and ran 56 yards for the score. Tamayo tied the game at 14 with his extra point, and that score stood until halftime.

The Braves outgained Alabama A&M 209-148 in the first half, but the two defensive touchdowns for the Bulldogs were the difference between a tie game and a 14-point Braves’ lead.

It looked as if Alcorn had taken the lead midway through the third quarter when linebacker William Thomas snagged an errant pass from Bulldogs’ quarterback Deaunte Mason out of the air and returned it 60 yards to the end zone. But, Alabama A&M caught a break as Mason was called down before tossing the interception, and neither team was able to score in the third quarter.

Alabama A&M would get its first offensive touchdown with just over 10 minutes to go in the game when Mason scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak after an 11-play, 79-yard drive. Wilson’s extra point gave the Bulldogs the 21-14 lead.

Alcorn advanced the ball into Bulldogs’ territory on the ensuing possession, but running back Arnold Walker was stopped short on a fourth down and one by Alabama A&M’s Preston Nelson on the Bulldogs’ 45-yard line.

Alabama A&M took the ball 63 yards on its next possession to extend the lead to 28-14. The drive was capped off by an 8-yard run by Kaderius Lacey. Lacey finished his evening with 174 yards rushing a one touchdown. The Bulldogs rushed for 222 yards total.

Walker led Alcorn offensively with 117 yards rushing on 22 carries. Williams added 87 yards rushing.

The loss drops Alcorn State to 2-6 overall and 1-6 in SWAC play.