Carrie, Eugene to meet for last time as ASU preps for Tigers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2004

LORMAN &045; For the quarterbacks involved, this one has been a long time coming.

It’s the final matchup of Alcorn quarterback Donald Carrie and Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene, two strong-armed leaders who grew up together in New Orleans and have spent the last three seasons matching up against each other in the early part of the season.

Eugene and the Tigers have had the upper hand in the last three meetings &045; Alcorn has yet to beat Grambling in six tries under head coach Johnny Thomas. Eugene has also edged out Carrie in accolades, having earned first team All-SWAC honors and even being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

Email newsletter signup

Carrie, however, still has a score to settle with his friend from back home when the two teams face off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Robinson Stadium.

&uot;Little league football, high school football &045; it seems like everywhere we go, we wind up playing each other,&uot; said Carrie, a graduate of McMain High School. &uot;Throughout high school, my team always beat his. In little league, we always beat him. In my senior year in high school, he beat me. I’m looking to get back even.&uot;

Carrie has put up exceptional numbers in his three years as starting quarterback at Alcorn, but Eugene has garnered most of the attention in black college football at tradition-rich Grambling. Eugene threw for 3,805 yards and 34 touchdowns last year to Carrie’s 2,826 yards and 24 touchdowns.

But don’t compare the stats or the win-loss record. The Braves wouldn’t trade Carrie for anyone, and the senior is now the second-best passer in school history behind that guy who is now starting for the Tennessee Titans.

&uot;We’ve been good friends,&uot; Carrie said of the Cohen High graduate. &uot;We keep in touch with each other. He’ll call me, or I’ll call him. It’s more of a friendly rivalry than an I-beat-you kind of thing. I hope he does well, and he hopes I do well.&uot;

The Carrie-Eugene matchup is one of several storylines to the contest, the season-opener for two teams expected to make a push to play for the SWAC Championship in December. For the Braves, it’s the start of a season of unprecedented optimism as they were picked in the preseason poll to win the Eastern Division title.

What better way to prove their stock than by taking down Grambling in the first game. Coaches and players have been working since the start of fall camp to prepare for Grambling, and work will resume today to prepare for Eugene and the GSU offense.

&uot;The expectations of this football team is nothing new than in prior years,&uot; ASU head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot; If you begin a season, there should be a main purpose of to win a championship. We’re all excited about this upcoming season. We go in at the very beginning of training camp with the primary goal of winning a championship.

&uot;That’s been the way it’s been since I’ve been a coach at Alcorn State University, and it will continue to be as long as I’m a coach at Alcorn State University.&uot;

That top billing has been a driving force in training camp. The Braves have yet to earn a spot in the SWAC Championship since the contest was implemented and have not been declared conference champs since 1994.

But Thomas and the staff credited three things that pushed everyone to work harder during training camp &045; the win over Jackson State to end the 2003 season, a recruiting class that may have been the best in Thomas’ tenure and that top billing in the preseason poll.

&uot;I feel like Coach Thomas and the coaching staff did an excellent job,&uot; senior running back Robert Lester said. &uot;They pushed us to the edge, and once we got to the edge, they pushed us a little more. That’s going to help us out a lot. I’ve watched so many films on Grambling I know what they’re going to run before they run it.&uot;

The preseason favorite tag, meanwhile, can have its drawbacks. Some folks picked Alabama State to claim the East after what the Hornets did last year, but the Braves have key starters back on offense and enough momentum to carry over to this season.

Work begins today to back that up at Grambling and against Eugene, who also has new personnel around him but the same ability to create big plays.

&uot;When you go to Grambling, that’s a major concern of mine,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;We don’t have the same team we had last year, especially on the defensive side of the ball. But I think the personnel we have might be a little more talented and a little more cerebral, so to speak.&uot;