Alcorn prepares for Saturday’s game against NC AT

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 2004

LORMAN &045; There were two remaining reasons why Alcorn State really couldn’t afford to break out in a full-fledged party Saturday night at Robinson Stadium.

This week’s opponent, and the game did not count in the Southwestern Athletic Conference standings.

The players and coaches soaked in Saturday’s 34-23 win over Grambling as much as possible, but that did not last long. The Braves have two tough opponents ahead, including Saturday’s home opener against a good North Carolina A&T squad and Sept. 18 on the road against Howard.

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And the biggest downer in all of that Saturday night?

That was just the season opener.

&uot;I’m a senior, and it’s been so long since we beat Grambling,&uot; running back Robert Lester said Saturday night. &uot;I played my heart out, and it paid off. Right now we’re trying to enjoy this victory. But we’ll start watching films and start preparing for North Carolina A&T (this week).&uot;

The Braves can ill afford any type of letdown, particularly since they were nearly in this same boat the last two seasons going into the Grambling game. The Braves lost both, and what followed was a tailspin of turnovers, missed tackles and play that put the team in a hole it couldn’t get out of.

The Aggies are just as good if not better than Grambling. And it’s another tough opponent in the black college football ranks the Braves need to beat to gain further respectability.

&uot;It’s still early,&uot; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;I’m not being negative, but I’m being realistic. We have to put everything in perspective. We were very appreciative and blessed to get out of (there) with a victory, but we can’t get overconfident and feel that if we have arrived.

&uot;We know we can come back and lose the next 10. We know if we stay the course, we can win the next 10.&uot;

Thomas and the coaching staff may be most at ease this week in regards to the team’s defense. Loaded with talent but lacking the necessary experience, a unit that had just four starters returning literally dove head-first into a shark tank at Robinson Stadium against Grambling and star quarterback Bruce Eugene.

The line with two freshmen and first-year starter Bryan Woods at end played well. Woods had a sack, a quarterback hurry and 1 1/2 tackles for loss.

&uot;Last year we didn’t have time to put in all our packages,&uot; said cornerback Taurian Parks, who returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown. &uot;Coach (LaTraia) Jones put in all of our packages, and we knew them. We knew we were going to get Grambling this year.&uot;

About the only thing the Tigers did with any consistency during the contest was move it on the ground in the second half, but that was more due to the Braves having so much respect for Grambling’s pass attack.

Eugene and Ab Kuuan combined for more than 150 yards rushing, and the Tigers finished with 224 yards rushing to Alcorn’s 159. But the pass coverage was solid, including Parks’ game-breaking interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

The only touchdown the Tigers put up while the starters were in came when Landry Carter returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

&uot;When they were successful running the football in the first half, that was pretty much based on us thinking they were going to throw the football,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;That (return) gave them a little momentum. If we had covered the kick and stopped them, I don’t think the score would have ended up like it did.&uot;

Now the coach and the staff must put that entire game in the past and get ready for the rest of the season. It starts Saturday at home against A&T, and the Braves’ win just sharpened their focus toward reaching their goal of playing for the SWAC Championship.

&uot;Coach told us we were going to get some rest, and in the morning it’s North Carolina A&T,&uot; Parks said.