Alcorn ready for Grambling rematch

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Alcorn State football coach Johnny Thomas hopes there’s not an ill wind blowing when the Braves head to Chicago for their season opener against Grambling.

The 6 p.m. contest was originally scheduled for Lorman, but was moved to Soldier Field as the Third Annual Chicago Football Classic.

&uot;We feel like we’re as ready as we can be,&uot; Thomas said.

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Thomas will be counting on an experienced offense to carry the load for an inexperienced defense.

But that offense suffered a setback when senior wide receiver Rennard Reynolds suffered a hairline fracture in his foot during the summer.

Reynolds caught 28 passes for 619 yards last year, second to Donald Driver, who is now playing at Green Bay.

&uot;That puts a lot more stress on our running game,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;That injury is definitely a blow for us.&uot;

Grambling finished 5-6 last year under head coach Doug Williams. Grambling defeated Alcorn 11-0 last year, giving Williams a win in his first game as head coach. The Tigers are led by quarterback Lionel Hayes and linebacker Robert Taylor. Hayes completed 148 of 297 passes last year for 2,349 yards.

Natchez’s Ken Washington, who played the last two years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, will likely start in the defensive secondary Saturday.

&uot;Ken is doing great,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;He’s had a few problems with his right knee, but otherwise he’s been doing a good job. He’ll likely start for us.&uot;

Thomas said it may take a few games for his young defense to play up to its potential.

&uot;We have talent, speed and size, but we don’t have experience on that side of the ball,&uot; he said. &uot;Right now we’re just going to see what we are able to do with what we have in place.&uot;

Alcorn’s offense is led by senior running back Rodney Thomas, who ranked second in the conference in rushing last year with 1,286 yards.

Sophomore Damien Ford starts at quarterback after earning the SWAC&160;Newcomer of the Year Award last year when he completed 125 of 268 passes for 2,164 yards.

&uot;We have to have no turnovers, little or no penalties, we have to execute and we have to have some big plays,&uot; Thomas said.

And as for preparing mentally for Grambling?

&uot;We’ll have no trouble getting ready to play them, just like they never had an problem getting ready to play us.&uot;