Alcorn State stuns Southern with 44-38 victory in overtime
BATON ROUGE — It was a thriller in Baton Rouge as the Alcorn State University Braves managed to pull out an upset at Southern University’s homecoming with a 44-38 overtime win after a stale second half.
Braves fans held their breath for the majority of the fourth quarter as Southern recovered from a 17-point deficit to take lead on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Randall Menard that took less than a minute and only four plays to achieve with 13:14 left in the game. The extra-point put the Jaguars ahead 35-31.
Anthony Williams breathed life back into the Braves with 3:04 left in the game when he rushed 33 yards for Alcorn’s first touchdown since the 12:54 mark of the third quarter. With the Braves back on top 38-35, all they needed was to play solid defense for the last three minutes.
But with 42 seconds left in the game, the Jaguars got down to the 22-yard line on fourth down and went for the game-tying, 38-yard field goal. Greg Pittman’s kick cleared the uprights, sending it into overtime tied at 38.
Head coach Jay Hopson said he told his players there was no need to feel any pressure going into overtime.
“I just told them these are situations that we’ve been in, and we just have to go out there and win it,” Hopson said.
Alcorn won the coin toss, giving Southern the ball first, and two plays later, Alcorn’s Anthony Williams came down with a huge interception to give the Braves the last chance they needed. The Braves capitalized on it with a 25-yard rush from Anthony Walker to give the Braves a 44-38 victory in Jaguar territory.
Hopson said Walker continued to make plays as he’s done all year long, and Hopson also said Walker’s play came at such a crucial time.
“I’ve been saying all year that he knows how to make plays,” Hopson said. “He works hard, and everything he does is full speed. He’s an outstanding running back.”
Walker rushed for 156 yards on 28 carries, and John Gibbs threw for 239 yards, completing 16 of 28 passes for two touchdowns. Gibbs also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown. Randall Menard for Southern had a career night with three catches for 119 yards and three touchdowns, and he became the second wide receiver to score three touchdowns this season.
The first quarter went slowly for both teams, but Alcorn got on the scoreboard first with 3:28 left in the first quarter when Gibbs completed a 13-yard pass to Jordan Payne. Haiden McCraney kicked the extra-point to give the Braves a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, the Braves got things going after a wakeup call by the Jaguars’ defense. Alcorn couldn’t get a first down and was forced to punt, but McCraney’s kick was blocked by Southern’s Demetrius Carter, and Randall Menard picked it up for the 6-yard touchdown. Pittman’s PAT evened the score at 7.
Alcorn tried to come back when Anthony Williams returned the ensuing kickoff for 49 yards to give Alcorn good field position. It took just six plays to get Gibbs in the end zone on an 8-yard quarterback keeper at the 10:54 mark to put the Braves back on top 14-7.
But the Jaguars responded as Menard went for his second touchdown on a 23-yard pass from Dray Joseph at the 7:18 mark. The Jaguars’ Detrane Lindsey then picked off a pass by Gibbs and returned it for a touchdown, but a personal foul call not only gave the Braves the ball back, but rewarded them a first down as well.
The Braves took advantage of their second opportunity as Gibbs threw a 48-yard pass to Brandon Vessell to get the Braves down to the 3-yard line on the next play. A few defensive stops pushed Alcorn back to the 12-yard line, and they were forced to kick a field goal to make it 17-14 at the 3:59 mark.
Walker later scored again on a 6-yard rush to extend the lead to 24-14 going into halftime.
In the third quarter, Gibbs threw for his second touchdown, this time a 52-yarder to Tavoris Doss just six plays into their drive, making it 31-14 with just under 13 minutes to play in the third.
But the third quarter proved to be a one-hit wonder for the Braves, and the Jaguars took over for the rest of the quarter. After a six-play, 80-yard drive resulted in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Joseph to Nico Talbert with 7:54 remaining in the third, Southern was back within 10 with the score at 31-21.
Momentum built for the Jaguars in an attempt to save their homecoming game when they didn’t allow Alcorn a single yard on the next drive. It was déjà vu for Alcorn as Carter got his second blocked punt of the game at the 21-yard line, and Talbert picked it up at the 9-yard line.
Hopson said his special teams made things difficult for the Braves throughout the course of the game, and it made a difference when they looked at the score in the third quarter.
“Our punting game really let us down, it took a little wind out of us,” Hopson said. “That gave (Southern) a little momentum in the second half to come back.”
Two plays later, Justin Morgan scored on a quarterback keeper, making it 31-28 with 6:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Hopson said he was proud of his players for their perseverance, and it was their character that won the ball game when there seemed to be no hope.
“It was an exhilarating game, and it was a great performance,” he said. “They kept fighting even when things went wrong. I’m proud of them.”
The Braves return to The Reservation to play Alabama State University at 4 p.m. Saturday.