Spiller sparks Alcorn offense again

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2003

LORMAN &045; Touchdown Charlie. That’s they’re calling him.

That’s Alcorn red-shirt freshman Charlie Spiller who is becoming a threat on offense, and his two touchdown catches in Alcorn’s 20-15 win over Alabama A&M were the difference.

The first one sparked a lethargic offense in the third quarter, and the second one was the deciding factor after the Bulldogs kicked a field goal late in the game.

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&uot;Last week they were really keying on me and not the other receivers, but this week they were keying on the other receivers,&uot; said Spiller, who had just two catches on the day. &uot;It opened me up. Last week they (Mississippi Valley) were really keying on me. We caught them in a couple of cover-zeros (coverage). When they go cover zero, we normally go over the top.&uot;

It’s becoming habit for Spiller to make big catches in a game, especially in the Braves’ current four-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s Capital City Classic contest against archrival Jackson State.

It started with that game-winning grab at Southern in a game that started the team’s hot streak, and he caught a big one a week later against Southeastern Louisiana as the Braves rallied from 17 points down.

Then on Saturday against A&M he caught the first of two touchdown passes in the third quarter when the Braves were desperately looking for a spark down 12-0.

&uot;It got me fired up, too,&uot; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;Evidently, we found that one weakness we could exploit. We did exploit that weakness. Spiller came up with two big catches, and that’s something he’s done the last couple ball games.&uot;

It got the sideline and the stadium fired up, and the momentum went the Braves’ way after that. All three scores were big plays, and the offense needed just 1:31 off the clock to put them on the board.

For the remaining 58:29 of Saturday’s contest, the Braves were scorless.

&uot;It was a different team (after the first TD),&uot; said Spiller, now the team leader in touchdown catches with seven. &uot;The intensity was up. We stuck together and played as a team.&uot;

The other touchdown was worth noting, too. Carrie hit tight end LaMarcus Turner over the middle in the third quarter, and the 6-4, 270-pound senior dropped a couple shoulders through the secondary to get into the end zone for his second touchdown of the season.

It came on the third play of the Braves’ first drive after Spiller’s first score on a third-and-2 situation at the A&M 37.

&uot;We had been setting that play up all game &045; going to the fullback, going to the fullback,&uot; quarterback Donald Carrie said. &uot;We had a short-yardage play coming up, and we hadn’t used that play all day. In my head I knew we could get a first down, but I didn’t know we could score. But we did.

&uot;This was a real big win for our team and for our school. The last couple of years we’ve been in the race and couldn’t pull it together. We played the defending Eastern Division champs, and everybody played hard and came together. We came out with a victory.&uot;

The win keeps the Braves (6-5, 4-2) in the hunt for a shot at Birmingham in the SWAC Championship, needing a win over Jackson State (2-9, 2-4) and a Texas Southern win over Alabama State (6-4, 4-2) to get in since the Hornets beat Alabama State earlier in the season.

And while the Tigers are putting the wraps on one of their worst seasons in school history under first-year head coach James Bell, no one at Alcorn is dismissing them yet.

&uot;Jackson State is not down,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;When they play Alcorn, they play up. Jackson State has beaten us since I’ve been here. We’re not looking at Jackson State as being a team that is down. They can salvage their season by beating us. I know they’re going to be fired up.&uot;

Saturday’s loss puts the Bulldogs, the two-time defending Eastern Division champion, all but out of the SWAC Championship picture. A&M (4-3, 7-4) can only hope both Alcorn and Alabama State lose Saturday and get into a tie-breaker system that would give them the edge.

&uot;Right now it doesn’t look good for us,&uot; A&M head coach Anthony Jones said. &uot;We’ve got to lick our wounds and try to make some plays next week. If we get a chance to get into the championship game, it should be a lesson for us.&uot;