Alcorn offense heats up to put away N.C. AT

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

LORMAN &045; North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State might have been suffering from collective amnesia regarding the end zone.

At least that’s the impression one might have been left with after watching the first three quarters of their game Saturday, in which there were exactly three field goals and no touchdowns.

In the fourth quarter, both teams suddenly remembered how to find the end zone, exploding for a combined 20 points as Alcorn scored a last-minute touchdown for a 16-13 victory.

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&uot;We didn’t play very well overall as a team,&uot; Alcorn State head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;But when they needed to play, they played.&uot;

It seemed NC A&T (1-1) had the game won when Christopher Jones scored on a 3-yard touchdown rush to open the fourth quarter, giving NC A&T a 13-3 lead with 14:10 remaining in the game.

&uot;We were down, and you could see it on the sidelines,&uot; Braves’ wide receiver Nate Hughes said. &uot;I thought (the turning point) was when our defense stopped them and got us the ball back (before that final scoring drive).&uot;

But Alcorn (2-0) made things interesting with a touchdown with 7:54 remaining in the game when running back Robert Lester scored on a 3-yard rush. David McConnell’s point-after attempt was blocked, leaving the Braves down 13-9.

The Alcorn defense stopped the Aggies and took over with 5:24 to go, and the Braves drove down deep into Aggie territory. An ill-advised reverse call cost Alcorn 7 yards and ultimately forced the Braves into a fourth down and 17.

But a 23-yard pass from Braves’ quarterback Donald Carrie to Hughes gave the Braves a first down at the Aggie 4. Three plays later, Robert Lester scored a 1-yard run with 36 seconds left in the game, giving the Braves a 16-13 lead and all but ended the game.

The Alcorn defense held stout against the Aggies and ended the game.

The first three quarters were an exercise in drudgery, as neither team scored a touchdown despite a number of promising opportunities.

&uot;I thought we came out sluggish, we weren’t focused and we made all kinds of mistakes , and turnovers,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;To do all these negative things for the first three quarters and still manage to win, that’s very, very, pleasing.&uot;

A&T’s downfall came early in the game, when the Aggies had three drives deep into Alcorn territory but only came away with two field goals.

&uot;We didn’t finish plays,&uot; Aggie head coach George Small said. &uot;We had the opportunities to win. We should have been up 21 points real early, but we just didn’t finish our plays.&uot;

The A&T offensive line pushed the smaller Alcorn defense all over the field, opening large holes for running backs Micheaux Hollingsworth and Christopher Jones. The Aggies had 260 rushing yards in the game.

Jones scored the Aggies’ only touchdown and had 107 yards for the game.

Indeed, the Aggies dominated the Braves in most categories, getting more total yards, more first downs, more rushing yards, a higher punting average and fewer turnovers. But in the end, it was North Carolina A&T’s failure to score touchdowns.