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Numerous turnovers lead to 54-14 loss for Alcorn on homecoming

The ball slips from Alcorn State University’s Terrance Lewis’ hands as Alabama State University’s Enadiahe Eguaze goes for the tackle during Saturday’s game at Jack Spinks stadium. Alcorn fell to Alabama State, 54-14. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

lorman — Alcorn State spent its homecoming gift-wrapping touchdown after touchdown for Alabama State to unwrap Saturday afternoon.

Six Braves turnovers gave Alabama State the ball inside the Alcorn red zone, and the results weren’t pretty: a 54-14 loss on a rainy, miserable afternoon that dropped the Braves to 1-4 on the season, 1-2 in SWAC play.

“You’ve got no chance in hell to win a ball game if you do that,” Alcorn head coach Jay Hopson said.

The Braves quickly found themselves trailing 21-0 at the end of the first quarter. A low snap caused Alcorn punter Marcquiso Smith’s knee to be down on the Braves’ 17-yard line, giving Alabama State an easy shot to the end zone.

And the Hornets connected a few plays later, when quarterback Greg Jenkins hit T.C. McWilliams with a 19-yard touchdown pass at the 7:03 mark.

On the ensuing Alcorn possession, Hornets linebacker Brandon Roberts forced Braves receiver Terrance Lewis to fumble, and Alabama State’s Winton Steward recovered the ball in the end zone with 6:43 left in the first.

With 14 seconds left in the first, Alcorn starting quarterback Darius Smith attempted his only pass of the day, and Deandra Rashada picked it off and ran back 19 yards for the touchdown to put the Hornets up by 21.

Georgia transfer running back Isaiah Crowell scored the Hornets’ next touchdown in the second quarter, one of just two that didn’t come immediately after a turnover. Crowell broke free for a 61-yard touchdown carry with 7:44 left in the second. He finished the day with 116 yards rushing.

A muffed kick by Alcorn gave the Hornets the ball on the Alcorn 7 with 6:04 left in the second. On the next play, Malcolm Cyrus put Alabama State ahead 34-0 on a 7-yard touchdown carry.

Alcorn started to make it interesting after Donovan Hill scooped a punt teammate Robert Gainwell blocked in the end zone for a touchdown. Alcorn then recovered the onside kick, and backup quarterback John Gibbs connected with Joe Price for a 41-yard touchdown reception to make it 34-14 at the half.

But the Hornets would pull away in the second half, starting at the 9:34 mark in the third quarter when Jenkins carried the ball in from 8 yards out. It was the Hornets’ only other touchdown that didn’t come because of a turnover in the Alcorn red zone.

With 10:55 to go in the fourth, Carey McKnight blocked another Alcorn punt, and teammate Corey Schofield recovered the ball in the end zone for the Hornets.

On the ensuing kickoff, a fumble at the Alcorn 4 set up Alabama State’s final touchdown. Two plays later, Rodney Cross scored on a 2-yard carry.

Hill said after the game that he was happy with the coaches’ plan to attack the Hornets offense, but the mistakes ended up costing his team.

“Our scheme was excellent, but when you turn the ball over so many times on offense and special teams, there’s only so much you can do,” Hill said.

“I don’t get down, it’s just the fact that we put in all the work during the week, and you come out on Saturday night and you see that, your work not being put forth in the effort, it bothers you, but you just can’t let it get to you. You just have to keep playing for the next down.”

Gibbs led Alcorn in passing, going 12-for-30 with 133 yards and a touchdown. After his interception, Smith didn’t return, but Hopson said there was nothing to read into that decision.

“We got some momentum going with John,” Hopson said. “We scored, and we got the onside kick and scored again. John had done some good things.”

Perhaps the most memorable play of the game for Gibbs was a pass attempt that bounced off the Hornets defender and was caught by Gibbs. Gibbs then tried to attempt a pass again, not knowing the rules only allow for one forward pass. He was promptly flagged.

“You have to laugh to keep from crying,” Hopson said. “I thought I’d seen everything in coaching, but that’s a new one on me.”

Hopson said slippery conditions definitely played a factor in the Braves committing so many turnovers.

“The weather played a factor in all 42 of the points by turnover,” Hopson said.

With so many issues concerning the punting game, Hopson said he definitely has to reevaluate that aspect of his team.

“Whoever’s going to punt, I couldn’t care less how far they can punt it, we’ve got to get someone who can catch the (snap),” Hopson said. “If any punters are out there listening, I want someone who can catch a (snap).”

Alcorn will host Southern next Saturday.