Hughes’ 3 TDs spark Braves to late win

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 9, 2003

LORMAN &045; Nate Hughes is so good he can catch passes in the dark.

It’s a drill of the true freshman out of Starkville to catch 100 passes in the dark outside of his dorm, so it made catching passes on a sunny Saturday afternoon no problem. Hughes caught three touchdown passes Saturday before the sun went down to lead the Alcorn State Braves to a 27-24 win over Southeastern Louisiana in non-conference action.

&uot;It was a good game, a dream game,&uot; said Hughes, who finished the game with four catches for 158 yards. &uot;Any time you can catch three touchdown passes in a game, it’s a dream. I’ve always dreamed of doing big things on the college level.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

Hughes had three big ones for scores, but none were bigger than his 28-yard catch for a score with 2:43 left in the game to erase Southeastern’s 24-21 lead. In similar fashion to the Braves’ win last week at Southern, quarterback Donald Carrie converted on a second-and-long situation for the touchdown pass to Hughes to give the Braves the lead.

Alcorn, who trailed 17-0 in the first quarter, had a big defensive stop right after that when Tyrone Parsons picked off a Martin Hankins pass on the Lions’ ensuing drive to put a severe damper on Southeastern’s comeback hopes.

And just like last week’s game against Southern, Parsons came up with the big interception in the clutch.

&uot;We didn’t play very well in the first half defensively or offensively,&uot; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;We turned the football over, and we weren’t tackling well in the first half. In the second half after our halftime talk we did a much better job of tackling. We felt we should have shut them down for no points in the second half. The defense came out and played hard and very well.&uot;

The defense kept the offense in the game late, and Hughes and Carrie were able to hook up late to take the momentum and control on the scoreboard. The Braves played mistake-free football for the most part &045; Carrie had no interceptions in the game for the second straight week &045;and started from their own 6 with 5:57 left in the game.

Two key penalties threatened to derail the drive &045; one 11-yarder and a 15-yarder inside the red zone &045; but stayed with it. Robert Lester had a huge 14-yard run down to the 16, but an unsportsmanlike call a play later pushed the Braves back to the SLU 29.

That’s when Carrie hit Hughes on the 29-yard TD pass for the lead.

&uot;That’s why we call him Tonto,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;We predicted he was going to be the kind of receiver he’s blossoming into. I saw him catching the football in the dark, and I asked him, ‘Are you the real deal, or are you trying to impress somebody?’ He said, ‘Coach, I’m for real.’ He’s very talented and very smart and making great catches, and playmakers make great catches when the game is on the line.&uot;

The Lions, who topped the 300-yard mark in passing for the fourth straight game, couldn’t answer late in the game. On their first drive Parsons made the pick on fourth down, but they held Alcorn on its next drive and took over at the SLU 5 with 1:12 left.

A pass from Martin Hankins to Jeffrey Howard got the Lions to the Alcorn 45 with one second left.

The Lions scurried to get Jim Hall in to attempt a 62-yard field goal, but the kick fell well short.

&uot;I thought we played really well in the first quarter,&uot; SLU head coach Hal Mumme said. &uot;The second quarter we didn’t play as well on offense. We played well on defense pretty much. We had some passes we shouldn’t have given up, but we’ve got a really young secondary and they’re still learning back there.

&uot;They (ASU) ran some things they had never seen before. But I’m proud of the kids’ effort all the way around.&uot;

The Lions’ offense found a gear early in the fourth quarter when it got a 20-yard pass from Hankins to Hutch Gonzales on the first play of the drive. A roughing the passer call on Alcorn got the ball to the Alcorn 30, and four plays later Hankins hit Jeffrey Howard on an 8-yard TD pass with 12:24 left for a 24-14 lead.

But the Braves &045; who were behind the entire game &045; held the Lions deep on their next drive before taking over at the Southeastern 44. Carrie hit Corvin Johnson on a 9-yard pass before connecting with Hughes on a 35-yard TD pass with 7:10 left to cut the lead to 24-21.

&uot;Donald has done a really great job since the first half of the season,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;He’s making good decisions, and he’s looking at his receivers very, very well. He’s spreading the ball around, and he’s making things happen. His ability to read defenses and understand what they’re doing is going to be crucial going down the stretch (of the season).&uot;

The Braves made their biggest

statement of the first half late in the second quarter on a fourth-and-9 situation in Southeastern territory. A deep pass from Carrie was short, but freshman Charlie Spiller jumped up and caught it for a 33-yard TD pass.

That cut the lead to 17-14 with 9:12 left in the second, a score that held up until halftime when Southeastern’s Jim Hall

missed a 46-yard field goal as time expired.