Braves’ running back hits milestone mark

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 31, 2003

LORMAN &045; If you don’t know Andrew Burks well, chances are he won’t strike up a conversation with you.

And if you do know him, well, don’t count on a debate on the pros and cons of the current military action in the Middle East, either.

Instead, the Hazlehurst native does more of his talking with his legs and shoulders as one of the leaders among Alcorn State’s rushing attack. After starting the season in a three-man rotation in the backfield, Burks has topped the 100-yard mark in the last two games and is leading the way on the ground in the fourth-best ground game in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

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&uot;Any one of our backs can get 100 yards a game, but he’s emerging right now,&uot; senior guard LeDarien Strauss said. &uot;But he’s real quiet. He’s a man of few words, but he just goes out and plays hard.&uot;

Burks, a 5-10, 195-pound senior in his third year on The Reservation following a year a Co-Lin, not only had consecutive 100-yard games after rushing for 108 yards on 19 carries last week against Texas Southern but broke the 1,000-yard mark for his career late in the game.

He broke a 34-yard run near the end of the game in the 23-20 loss at TSU to stand at 1,039 yards while at Alcorn. Four more yards will put Burks 19th on the school’s all-time rushing list past Franklin Roberts’ 1,041 yards from 1968-71.

&uot;The line is doing a great job,&uot; Burks said. &uot;It’s a big part of our offense.&uot;

Burks’ productivity isn’t anything new after he led the team in rushing last year, and he got more carries as the season went on when running back Sidney Dumas battled through injuries and had to spend more time on special teams.

He finished with 552 yards on 144 carries and eight touchdowns, getting twice as many carries as anyone else running the ball.

&uot;He’s still getting better,&uot; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;He’s so durable, quick and intelligent. He makes good decisions running the football and is very resourceful. We’ll continue to give him the football and pound him. He’s the kind of guy you can depend on.&uot;

The offense sure was in the hunt to depend on someone in the backfield to run the ball effectively. Burks ran for 136 yards on 24 carries in the season-opening win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but during the Braves’ four-game losing streak no one cracked the century mark in yards.

Then Burks and Dumas each had 100 yards two weeks ago against Prairie View, and Burks’ 100-yard effort last week was the first time the Braves had that in a losing effort in almost three years.

He was also the first Alcorn back to put together consecutive 100-yard games in over three years.

&uot;Burks is a good tailback and runs hard,&uot; Strauss said. &uot;He’s patient with his blocks and sets us up real nice. Sometimes you feel like he’ll run for three or four yards, and he’ll push for three or four more. He’ll run hard if we block hard. He’s an all-around back and brings it all to the table.&uot;

His biggest strength, however, may be his ability to maintain control of the football. That’s been a nice aspect for an offense that was battling its own turnover problems during that four-game skid earlier in the year.

&uot;He doesn’t turn the football over very often, and we can do well with him,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;That’s something he does very well, and we’re very proud of that. If he can continue to do that, I think he’ll break a lot of records this year.&uot;

NOTES &045; The Braves will face a red-hot Southern University squad Saturday night in Baton Rouge. After dropping their third SWAC contest, the Braves need a win to stay in the hunt for the Eastern Division crownŠ.Running back Robert Lester played Saturday but did not run the ball. Red-shirt freshman Jeremy McCoy had five carries for 26 yards, and Lester played on special teams. McCoy had his first carry of his career the game before against Prairie View and was named Newcomer of the Week.