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Alcorn ruins Jackson State’s bid for perfect conference record

Alcorn receiver Billy Shed hauls in a pass as Jackson State's Travis Woods attempts to bring him down. (Photo courtesy of Charles A. Smith)
Alcorn receiver Billy Shed hauls in a pass as Jackson State’s Travis Woods attempts to bring him down. (Photo courtesy of Charles A. Smith)

By Ernest Bowker

The Vicksburg Post

JACKSON — Jackson State will still get to play for the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.

Alcorn State was more than happy to settle for the championship of Mississippi.

The Braves routed their archrival 48-33 Saturday afternoon, as quarterback John Gibbs Jr. threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns and the team totaled 197 rushing yards.

Defensive back Quinton Cantue returned an interception 36 yards for a score during a 31-point first half that sent Alcorn on its way to its first win over Jackson State since 2009. Arnold Walker rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

“We knew we lost a couple of weeks ago that we were taken out of it (the SWAC title chase), but we felt like if we could win this game we were the real SWAC champs. That’s the way we played. I felt like we were all on the same page. We knew what we wanted to do, and did it,” said Cantue, who finished with six total tackles, two interceptions and one pass breakup.

Jackson State (8-3, 8-1 SWAC) had already clinched the East Division title and will play Southern in the SWAC championship game Dec. 7 in Houston. The Tigers, though, hardly looked like a contender against a feisty Alcorn squad.

The Braves (9-3, 7-2) intercepted JSU quarterback Clayton Moore three times. One of those was Quinton Cantue’s touchdown that made it 24-3 with 6:06 left in the first half. Another came on the final play of the half, when Cantue picked off Moore at the goal line as Jackson State was driving to stay in the game.

Alcorn also sacked Moore once, hit or pressured him on numerous occasions, and forced three fumbles.

Moore finished the game 19-of-37 passing, for 269 yards and one touchdown.

“That was a very disappointing loss, but it looked like it might have been an old-fashioned tail-beating tonight,” Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said. “They played hard. They played well. They had a good offensive design and a good defensive design.”

Alcorn’s offense was as impressive as its defense. It had three scoring drives of 10 plays or more in the first half. Two ended with Gibbs touchdown passes, of 15 yards to Jordan Payne and 13 yards to Tollette George, and a third was capped by a 13-yard TD run by Walker that gave the Braves a 31-3 lead with 59 seconds left in the second quarter.

“I thought the first half we were really playing good on both sides of the football. We were making plays on defense and executing good on offense,” Alcorn coach Jay Hopson said. “I thought we played well in all phases of the game.”

Jackson State did make a push in the second half. A blocked punt resulted in a safety, and the Tigers scored on an 8-yard TD pass from Moore to Zach Pendleton on the ensuing possession to cut the deficit to 31-12. Right when it seemed they might be able to claw their way back into the game, however, Alcorn struck again.

Jarvis Turner caught a wide receiver screen as JSU sent an all-out blitz, slipped past one defender and won a footrace to the end zone. The 57-yard touchdown put Alcorn back in front by four scores and seemed to blunt the momentum JSU had regained. Although Jackson State scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, Alcorn was always able to stay a step ahead. The score never got closer than 15 points in the second half.

“It seems like every time they got the ball, they killed the momentum we got,” Moore said.

Moore added that while the game was for nothing more than bragging rights, it still stung to be on the wrong side of it.

“Even though this game didn’t matter, it’s still a detrimental loss,” Moore said. “It was Alcorn, and there’s still 40,000 people here. We’ll put it behind us and get ready to go back to work.”