Braves taste first 2-0 mark since 1993, begin preparing for Howard

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

LORMAN &045; The first two games

of 2004 have been very different for Alcorn State.

Alcorn took on old conference foe Grambling and won decisively 34-23 in the opening week, then needed a last-minute touchdown to beat North Carolina A&T 16-13 Saturday.

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But the most important thing &045; the result &045; was the same. Alcorn State is 2-0 for the first time under head coach Johnny Thomas, and that means the Braves will be marked men for Saturday’s contest against Howard at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.

&uot;When you’re undefeated, everyone is going to come after you,&uot; wide receiver Nate Hughes said.

Marked men or not, the Braves are right where they wanted to be, with two victories over teams that had been nationally ranked. Now the Braves have to take care of business for the remainder of the season, which includes a tough slate of opponents, including the balance of the SWAC.

Even the most ardent of Braves’ fans could scarcely have imagined such a tremendous start to the season. Head coach Johnny Thomas was quick to point out just how good a team NC A&T is.

&uot;I think (people) don’t realize North Carolina A&T is a really good team,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;That team finished second last year in the (black college football) polls. They are the defending MEAC champions.&uot;

Thomas said his team believes it is never out of a game until the game is actually over.

&uot;Of the five wins we had last year, four of them were come-from-behind,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;We have to believe.&uot;

The Braves showed some of that belief as they survived a game they could have easily lost Saturday.

&uot;We feel fortunate to have won,&uot; Thomas said.

And in many ways the Braves were fortunate to win. The Aggies had chances to put distance between themselves and the Braves in the first half, but came up with only two field goals on three drives in Alcorn territory. But the Braves were only down by 10 points in the fourth quarter when the comeback began.

In the end, running back Robert Lester’s touchdown sealed the victory with 36 seconds remaining in the game. But Lester said he knew the North Carolina A&T game wouldn’t matter after Saturday night.

&uot;Tomorrow, that will all be in the past,&uot; Lester said.

NOTES &045; Alcorn showed its depth at running back Saturday with two key players sitting out. Red-shirt freshman Vernardus Cooper was on the sideline not in uniform due to injury, leaving senior Robert Lester and true freshman Michael Shepherd to run the ball.

McCoy has yet to take the field this season due to a strained elbow, but the Dallas native is expected to play against Howard.