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Alcorn rides strong offense, 5 interceptions to win vs. Prairie View

Zerick Rollins Jr. of Alcorn State evades tackles from Kenneth Maxwell II (39) and Ekene Mordi of Prairie View A&M in the first half of Thursday night’s game at Alcorn. Rollins scored Alcorn’s first game of the night, and Alcorn won, 50-34. (Brittney Lohmiller \ The Natchez Democrat)
Zerick Rollins Jr. of Alcorn State evades tackles from Kenneth Maxwell II (39) and Ekene Mordi of Prairie View A&M in the first half of Thursday night’s game at Alcorn. Rollins scored Alcorn’s first game of the night, and Alcorn won, 50-34. (Brittney Lohmiller \ The Natchez Democrat)

LORMAN —Alcorn State got its first eight-win season in more than 20 years when the Braves handled Prairie View A&M 50-34 at The Reservation Thursday.

Head coach Jay Hopson said his team got off to a great start and kept their energy the entire night.

“We started the first half as good as we have all year,” he said. “It was a good effort from everybody, from offense to defense and special teams.”

Prairie View threw five interceptions, and Alcorn quarterback John Gibbs completed 24 of 43 passes for two interceptions and 265 yards. Arnold Walker rushed for 130 yards on 26 carries for two touchdowns.

The Braves made their offensive presence known early as Joe Price returned the opening kickoff 80 yards before being brought down at the Panthers’ 13-yard line. Just two plays later, Gibbs threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Zerick Rollins Jr., giving the Braves a 7-0 lead with less than a minute scraped off the clock.

Prairie View A&M’s quarterback Jerry Lovelocke evades a tackle from Alcorn State’s Quinton Cantue in the first half of Thursday night’s game at Alcorn. (Brittney Lohmiller \ The Natchez Democrat)
Prairie View A&M’s quarterback Jerry Lovelocke evades a tackle from Alcorn State’s Quinton Cantue in the first half of Thursday night’s game at Alcorn. (Brittney Lohmiller \ The Natchez Democrat)

Two drives later, Prairie View got things going as Jerry Lovelocke completes a 4-yard touchdown pass to Deandre Cooper, tying the game at 7.

Prairie View jumped ahead in the second quarter when Johntá Hebert ran for an 18-yard touchdown from Lovelocke with 13:47 to go in the second quarter.

But Gibbs was able to tie the game 14-14 after completing a 23-yard touchdown pass to LaDarien Davis with 10:25 left in the first half. The Braves’ David Metcalf then intercepted a pass by Lovelocke to give Alcorn the ball at the Panthers’ 35-yard line with less than 10 minutes left in the half.

In position to take the lead, Walker put his team ahead 21-14 with a 3-yard touchdown run with 8:12 remaining.

After forcing the Panthers to punt on the ensuing possession, Anthony Williams III got his first touchdown of the game on a 1 yard rush to put Alcorn up by two touchdowns with 3:16 left on the clock. But Haiden McCraney’s extra-point attempt went far right, making it 27-14. However, the Braves would score again before intermission with 3:16 left in the half when Gibbs tallied a 15-yard run. McCraney connected on the extra-point, giving the Braves a 34-14 lead at the half.

Alcorn came out of the locker room swinging first with a 1-yard touchdown by Walker, but the extra-point attempt was blocked, making the score 40-14.

The Panthers finally got on the board again when De’Auntre Smiley came in at quarterback and threw a 47-yard pass to Lovelocke. Just a few plays later, Smiley connected on a 29-yard pass to Cooper to set up the 4-yard touchdown rush from Courtney Brown to make it 40-21 with 2:32 to play in the third quarter.

The Panthers’ added a few more scores in the fourth as Smiley threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Cooper to put the game within 12 points with 10:44 remaining in regulation.

Alcorn began running down the clock, milking three minutes using the running game before punting to the Panthers. But the Braves’ William Thomas II picked off Smiley’s pass at the Panthers’ 10-yard line and ran it back for an easy six points, giving his team a 19-point cushion.

The Panthers dug themselves further in a hole as they went for a desperate fourth-down conversion at their own 18-yard line and failed. Alcorn took over in great field position, and McCraney eventually kicked a 32-yard field goal to make it 50-28 with 3:30 remaining.

Prairie View added one more touchdown as time expired when Cooper hit Lovelocke for a 57-yard touchdown pass.

Hopson said he was happy about the amount of turnovers his players, especially Francois, caused throughout the game.

“We created a lot of turnovers,” he said. “We had a little bit too many, but we created a lot as well so it was a plus.”

But Hopson also said he wasn’t pleased with the way the game ended, even though there were plenty of positives to take away from the game.

“I wish we wouldn’t have given up the balloon ball at the end for a touchdown, but I thought we played well in all phases, and I’m proud of them,” Hopson said. “Hopefully, we can go to work next week and work on the next win.”

Alcorn (8-3, 6-2) will play at Jackson State (7-2, 7-0) Nov. 16.