ASU title hopes crushed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 13, 1999

LORMAN – In a game where momentum had more swings than the Alcorn State band halftime performance, Alabama A&M had the most as the Bulldogs crushed any hope Alcorn State had of capturing the Southwestern Athletic Conference Eastern Division with a 35-26 win here Saturday.

The contest was played before a sparse crowd of 1,342.

Alabama A&M (6-5, 3-1) scored on its first possession as Tony Bellamy passed down the middle to Kenyon Hambrick for a 39-yard scoring play. Travis Schugg added the conversion kick.

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The Bulldogs added to their lead later in the period as Jason Boykin intercepted a Damion Ford pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown. Schugg added the kick.

Alcorn (3-6, 1-2 SWAC) got on the board with 4:42 remaining in the opening period as Ford completed a 39-yard TD pass to Marco Walder who outfought two defensive backs for the ball.

Ricar Gilliam’s point after kick failed.

Alcorn’s Terrence Crimiel recovered a Bulldog fumble at the Alcorn-yard line.

But Alcorn went three plays and out and the Bulldogs responded with their third score of the first period as Kelly Fields scored on a 34-yard run.

Schugg, who was replacing injured kicker Brandon Carter, hit his second PAT for a 21-6 Bulldog lead.

That’s when the final five minutes of the first half got fast and furious.

Alcorn pulled to within 28-14 as Ford completed a 25-yard TD pass to Walder and passed to Ronald Gilmore on the conversion.

Alabama A&M answered with a 21-yard TD pass from Melvin Gideon to Hambrick.

&uot;That’s very frustrating,&uot; said Alcorn State head coach Johnny Thomas of the Bulldogs’ ability to answer each Brave score. &uot;We just can’t seem to get any consistency. Something always happens, either a breakdown on offense or defense.&uot;

Gideon replaced Bellamy after the starting quarterback re-injured his ribs.

Ford then hooked up with Gilmore for a 28-yard scoring play. Gilliam, who was subbing for Erik Newman who fractured a cervical vertebrae earlier in the season, missed the extra point when the ball hit the upright to leave Alcorn trailing 35-20.

Newman also does the punting and third string punter Ouentin Raston, a lineman, was called on after Surhaver Fair was injured.

&uot;Our kicking game is in a shambles,&uot; Thomas said.

Defense took over in the second half, as Alcorn held the Bulldogs scoreless.

But Alcorn could manage only one score, a 5-yard scoring pass from Ford to Walder. The try for two failed.

&uot;They changed up their defense from a 5-0 to a 4-3 and outmatched us,&uot; said Alabama A&M coach Ron Cooper. &uot;Gideon is not a throwing quarterback, so we had to keep it on the ground.&uot;

Ford threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns, but was intercepted three times.

Walder had nine catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns, while Gilmore caught six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

&uot;Their wide receivers did a great job,&uot; Cooper said.

Alcorn closes its season at Jackson State next Saturday.

&uot;I can still see improvement,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;The players are learning and getting better. They are working hard and fighting adversity. We just have to keep giving them encouragement. It’s going to get better.&uot;