Bad snaps haunt ASU at bad time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Here’s more on the deep snap that was &045; or wasn’t, depending on where your allegiance lay Saturday at Jack Spinks Stadium:

No doubt it was the last of several big plays in Grambling’s 40-28 win over Alcorn State Saturday in Lorman, but you’ve really got to feel for punter Shane Phillips and the punt team after two bad snaps late in the game led to nine Grambling points that blew the game open.

If there’s anything the Braves spent countless numbers of hours on, it’s special teams. Head coach Johnny Thomas serves as special teams coordinator, and Phillips up until then had some impressive punts &045; four of 45 yards or more, one of which went 56.

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But with the game within reach late and every play a crucial one, the deep snap went high and wide to Phillips, who went into damage control and booted the ball out of the back of the end zone for an apparent two points that would have given the Tigers a 33-28 lead.

Not so fast.

Phillips actually booted it from about the Alcorn 1, and officials flagged him for an illegal kick. The Tigers opted to take over where the foul occurred, and quarterback Bruce Eugene later ran in for a touchdown for a 38-28 lead.

As if that wasn’t enough, the very next drive ended in a punt for the Braves from their own 15, and the snap to Phillips was bad again. This time he didn’t have to boot it out of the end zone, and the Tigers upped their lead to 40-28.

&uot;I think when we came back and stopped them and they had to put and the bad snap, I think that really changed the whole complexity of the ball game,&uot; GSU head coach Doug Williams said. &uot;It looked like whoever was going to have the ball last was going to win.&uot;

That’s how the game looked in the third quarter, and the Braves looked like they were in control most of the first half after a GSU score with nine seconds left in the first half put the score tied at 7-7.

So for almost three quarters the Braves were just as good as the Tigers, but it was the bad snaps that turned things around and what the 20,000-plus fans on the tiny Lorman campus will remember.

&uot;It’s a loss that’s very hard to explain,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;It wasn’t a conference game, but it was a game that really meant a lot to this football team because we hadn’t beaten Grambling in five years. It would have really catapulted us to another level of college football, but it didn’t happen that way.&uot;

EUGENE STEPS UP &045; Much of the Braves’ success in the first half was due to their man coverage in the secondary, and Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene had trouble finding usual target Tramon Douglas or others at times and wound up keeping it and running

That’s just as dangerous as him throwing, but the Tigers finally got on the board with Eugene’s 20-yard pass to Douglas with nine seconds left for their first score of the season.

But the second half the passing game stepped up and created mismatches in the secondary as most of Eugene’s passing yardage came in the second half.

&uot;Grambling had a week to prepare for us,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;I’ve been the head coach at Alcorn for six years, and this is the first time Doug has come out running the wing-T. But that didn’t hurt us. We didn’t cover well down the stretch and made some mistakes. When we needed to stop Grambling, we couldn’t stop them. When they went to their basic offensive set of five wides, that hurt us.&uot;

THOSE TRICKY BRAVES &045; The big game allowed the Braves to use some little-used plays offensively to spark the offense.

They went with the flea flicker pass twice with success &045; once where Sidney Dumas took the handoff and pitched back to quarterback Donald Carrie, who hit Corvin Johnson on a 50-yard pass that set up a score. On the next drive Carrie handed off to Robert Lester, who pitched back to Carrie to set up a 42-yard pass to Courtney Young to set up a 21-yard field goal from David McConnell.

&uot;Alcorn was full of trickery tonight,&uot; Williams said. &uot;We got caught up in it, and a couple of pass interference calls kept things going. Our defense got kicked around, but when they had to stood up.&uot;

But give credit to the Grambling defense, who kept Carrie from throwing cleanly late in the game. Take away that 45-yard touchdown strike to freshman Charlie Spiller, and Carrie’s longest pass was a dump off to Dumas for 12 yards.

&uot;It just didn’t not go very well for us the last eight or nine minutes of the fourth quarter,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;You can’t make those kinds of mistakes against Grambling and expect to recover from it.&uot;

SWAC HONORS &045; Alcorn kick returner Lonnie Teagle was named Co-Specialist of the Week along with Southern’s Ezra Landry Sunday. The 5-4 junior return specialist returned seven kickoffs for 138 yards, including one 41-yard return.

Adam Daigle

is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. You can reach him at (601) 445-3632 or by e-mail at