Braves need big day from D-line against Valley attack

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 9, 2004

LORMAN &045; Martin Jackson and Bryan Woods are close friends, so what’s a friend to do when his buddy gets hurt?

He takes his slack.

Woods went down with a knee injury last week against Southeastern Louisiana and is out for the season with what coaches figure is an ACL tear. Jackson, the sophomore who was converted into a defensive lineman, took over and had two sacks at defensive end after Woods went down.

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Jackson will start today when the Braves visit Mississippi Valley State. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. at Rice-Totten Stadium.

&uot;Me and Woods are pretty cool,&uot; Jackson said of the Natchez High product who was in his first season as a starter. &uot;Last year was both of our first years here. We have a good bond with each other. I feel more comfortable at defensive end. At defensive end you’ve got to come off the ball, make your plays and react.&uot;

Woods went down just before halftime against Southeastern Louisiana, although he may have injured his knee the week prior in the Southern game. The sophomore had been one of the more steady players up front for the Braves, leading the team with 3 1/2 sacks and second on the team with four quarterback hurries.

Not bad for a guy who wasn’t supposed to be a starter this season. So now it’s up to Jackson, the 6-3, 235-pound New Orleans native who played sparingly last year on special teams and as a backup to outside linebacker Dwan Wilson.

&uot;He has to step it up, play hard and make some plays,&uot; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &uot;He brought some intensity and some play-making (ability) and was a pleasant surprise for him. We hope he can be consistent with that and help us against Mississippi Valley play the same game and make some plays.&uot;

Jackson is a part is a unit that’s still in the remodeling process, particularly on the front line. The Braves have rotated tackles in and out regularly here lately after starting the season with freshmen Robert Browne and JoJuan Johnson as starters.

Last week the Braves went with Oren Long &045; the true freshman out of Hawaii &045; up front with Browne for a third straight start and had senior Leo Nobles back at middle linebacker to stop the run.

The Braves did a better job of that last week, especially in the second half, and will have to do it again today against a Valley team that ran it like crazy last week against Prairie View.

&uot;We’re getting much better, especially getting Leo back,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;That helped us out tremendously. (The tackles) have improved tremendously. You can’t help but improve when you get experience. They’ve done a pretty good job for us.&uot;

The Braves held Southeastern to under 100 yards rushing after giving up a season-worst 269 yards the week prior against Southern. Jackson and the defense stepped up against the rush in the second half, forcing the Lions to be one-dimensional and go against one of the better groups of defensive backs in the conference.

The Braves are No. 2 in the conference in defending the pass and moved up to eighth in defending the run.

&uot;We’re preparing for stopping the run, and I think we’ll do a better job this game,&uot; Jackson said. &uot;We have a really young defensive line, and we really had to get comfortable playing with each other. We’re getting more comfortable now and starting to talk it up now and starting to communicate our plays and our assignments.&uot;

The assignment today is stopping Valley, the running-most team in the conference with 375 total rushing plays despite averaging a fourth-best 164 yards a game. The Delta Devils pounded Prairie View last week with 58 total carries with starting quarterback Aries Nelson out of the game.

The Delta Devils finished with 313 yards rushing last week with Carlton Cotton claiming 137 on 14 carries.

&uot;We’ll do whatever it takes to win, but that’s what we’re doing,&uot; Valley head coach Willie Totten said. &uot;We found a guy that stepped up. At first we wanted to be a throwing team. We had the quarterback and receivers, but our No. 1 receiver went down. That kind of hurt us in our passing game.

&uot;Carlton Cotton is a running back we feel good about. He was a red-shirt last year, and we felt we had to give him a little more time. We knew Carlton could run the football when he got the opportunity.&uot;

It’s a challenge for the Braves, who have to fare better in this trip to the Valley then they did two seasons ago. In 2002 Alcorn had a promising season derailed in a 23-6 where everything went wrong for the Braves and gave life to a struggling Valley team that was playing merely for pride at that point in the season.

The Braves still have visions of a SWAC Championship today &045; they need to win and hope Alabama State loses to Grambling.

&uot;(Valley) had a tremendous amount of success with (the ground game) against Prairie View and Texas Southern,&uot; Thomas said. &uot;They’re big up front. They’ve got good-sized offensive and defensive linemen that are very aggressive.&uot;