Heart attack kids

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 9, 2003

LORMAN &045; Much to their dismay, the Alcorn State Braves had been there before and knew what to do when things were going wrong early Saturday.

It’s the only benefit of having those turnover problems earlier in the season &045; the Braves’ defense had played with its backs up against the wall nearly each one of its first seven games. So when the Braves had seven turnovers Saturday in a crucial game against Mississippi Valley State, the defense stayed cool &045; as it had to.

The Braves scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to take a 23-7 win over Valley to stay in the hunt for the Eastern Division title in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

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&uot;We knew this was a must-win game,&uot; Alcorn defensive end Michael Howleit said. &uot;We just kept fighting and didn’t give up. If we lost this game, there isn’t any tomorrow. It can be tough if you’re not focused, but we’re still on a quest for a SWAC championship. We had to grit our teeth and play football.&uot;

That’s what the defense had to do and what it didn’t do earlier in the season when the Braves held on to the football like it was on fire. The last two games the Braves were getting past that with just one turnover overall, but Saturday afternoon’s efforts seemed to make up for the last two games.

The ledger included six fumbles with five lost, two interceptions, a bad snap on a punt and 11 penalties for 97 yards.

But as Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas pointed out, the only thing that really matters is the scoreboard.

&uot;When you play teams within your division, it’s going to be a very uncharacteristic game for both teams,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;It was the first time we’ve had so many fumbles all year. The last two games we hadn’t fumbled the ball at all. But what I liked about it was the guys never got unraveled. They believed in themselves and believed in the system &045; defense, offense and special teams.&uot;

It’s true for both teams being uncharacteristic as the Delta Devils had three turnovers and 14 penalties for 126 yards (game total: 10 turnovers, 25 penalties for 233 yards). The biggest came late in the game when quarterback Curtis Kemp was picked off by Alcorn linebacker Leo Nobles at the Valley 27 just after the Braves took a 10-7 lead.

Kemp had another pass picked off by Jeffrey Hobbs with under four minutes left to allow the Braves to close it out.

&uot;We’re going to keep fighting,&uot; MVSU head coach Willie &uot;Satellite&uot; Totten said. &uot;We’ll continue to build and go out and have a good recruiting season. We’ve got a lot of young guys getting experience.&uot;

The Braves had to keep fighting, but they got over the hump when Nobles came up with the pick to give them the ball at the Valley 27. It was the first play after a 23-yard field goal from David McConnell put the ASU lead at 10-7 with 9:54 left, and the Braves continued to pound it in.

Alcorn quarterback Donald Carrie hit Nate Hughes on a 23-yard pass to get to the 4, and Carrie then found Corvin Johnson on a 4-yard TD pass with 8:57 left for a 16-7 Alcorn lead.

&uot;It definitely was a big play,&uot; ASU cornerback Tyrone Parsons said of Nobles’ pick. &uot;We got him from junior college, and we knew he was an athlete. When coach decided to put him in, it was kind of different because he never played linebacker. He stepped up and made a play for us.&uot;

The play got the Braves’ offense over the hump, and the defense &045; which held Valley to an impressive 159 yards total offense &045; stopped the Delta Devils on their next drive. The offense took over at its own 48, and the Braves kept it on the ground to punch it in when Robert Lester ran in from 13 yards out with 4:32 left for the 23-7 lead.

&uot;We always try to stay positive and keep our composure throughout the game,&uot; said Carrie, who threw for 213 yards but had two interceptions. &uot;Turnovers and penalties, those sort of things happen. It’s part of football. We had to stay focused on what we had to do, and that’s push the ball in when we’re in the red zone.&uot;

The Braves tried to do that in the first half but struggled as both teams went into halftime scoreless. Their first-half drives went interception, bad snap on a punt, fumble, loss of downs, fumble, fumble and interception with the closest opportunity to score coming when Lester’s attempt for a first on a fourth-and-1 situation fell short at the Valley 21.

Valley scored the first touchdown of the game when Kemp hit Phillip Pratt on a 15-yard pass with 8:37 left. Alcorn fumbled on its next drive, held Valley and got the ball back at the Valley 23 thanks to a big return from Lonnie Teagle.

Three Sidney Dumas runs got the Braves to the 11 when Carrie hit tight end LaMarcus Turner no a 11-yard TD pass with 3:35 left to tie the game at 7-7.