° empty

Alcorn gets win No. 4

Alcorn State University’s Arnold Walker breaks away from Texas Southern University’s Steven White during Saturday’s game. Alcorn defeated Texas Southern 34-24. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

LORMAN — The Alcorn State University football team was one first down away from capping off its fourth Southwestern Conference victory of the season Saturday night against Texas Southern University.

The Braves had already eaten four minutes off the clock, and Texas Southern was stacking the box and looking to stop a second-down and 13 yards with less than two minutes to go.

“They loaded 11 up front, and I told (offensive coordinator) Willie (Simmons), ‘Do what you got to do.’ And we hit it.”

Freshman quarterback John Gibbs hit sophomore wide receiver George Tollete on a slant pass and the middle of the field opened up for Tollete to take it 41 yards for a score. The touchdown and ensuing extra point by Ernesto Santillan gave the Braves a 34-24 lead that they would hold on to for the win.

“I knew he was gone,” Gibbs said. “And I knew it was over, because our defense wasn’t going to let them score.”

Gibbs finished the game with 80 yards rushing and 243 yards passing, and his performance personified the balance Alcorn had on offense.

“We were able to open it up, and we played well and executed,” Hopson said.

Alcorn finished the game with 240 yards rushing and 252 passing for a total of 492.

Gibbs managed to make the right decisions on run/pass options, and he said he really doesn’t have his preference when he steps behind center.

“I’ll do whatever’s open,” he said.

The Braves trailed 24-21 early in the fourth quarter after Texas Southern quarterback Rudolph Johnson scored on a 46-yard touchdown run.

Alcorn answered right back with a nine-play drive that lasted less than two minutes, spanned 75 yards and ended with an Arnold Walker 1-yard touchdown plunge. That score gave Alcorn the lead for good.

Walker earned the tough yards for Alcorn Saturday, as he rushed for 67 yards on 15 carries including two short touchdown runs and a big third-and-short, first down run on which he carried the pile 3 yards to pick up a first down. That first down was two plays before Alcorn’s game-sealing touchdown pass.

“Arnold had a good game and ran the ball hard,” Hopson said. “(The first-down run) was a big play in the game to move the chains and set up the touchdown.”

Alcorn opened the scoring in the first quarter with an 8-yard pass from Gibbs to Terrance Lewis early in the game.

The Alcorn defense played well against the run, and the front seven made big plays all night. The Braves defense forced five fumbles and recovered three.

“Our linebackers and defensive line played real aggressive,” Hopson said.

Texas Southern answered with a field goal early in the second quarter, before Alcorn extended its lead to 14-3 when back-up quarterback Jordan Payne found Natchez-native Nick Brooks on a 9-yard touchdown strike.

“It felt real good going out in my next-to-last home game and catching a touchdown,” Brooks, a senior, said. “I know this could be my last one on my home field.”

Texas Southern scored to make the score 14-10 at halftime when Johnson found James Davis on a 19-yard touchdown pass.

Those two connected again to start the third quarter, this time for 22 yards, to give Texas Southern a 17-14 lead early in the second half.

Alcorn answered midway through the third quarter with Walker’s first touchdown run of the game, a 2 yarder to make the score 21-17 in favor of the Braves.

Texas Southern would take the lead for the last time with Johnson’s long run, but the Braves had the final two scores of the game to win.

The victory puts the Braves at 4-6 overall and 4-4 in the SWAC.

“It’s big to get to 4-4 in the conference,” Hopson said.

The Braves will host Jackson State University Saturday.