Braves have been down this road

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

Odds are coaches and players up at Alcorn are still seething from last week’s home loss to Alabama State even with the off week.

But quietly and privately they may have released a small sigh of relief. Alabama State lost in a wild finish at the Cramton Bowl to Southern University Saturday, 42-41, to hand the Hornets their first SWAC loss.

The Hornets and the Braves are back tied atop the Eastern Division standings.

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But honestly, that may mean little if anything for the Braves, who used the off week as an attempt to get a season that was filled with high expectations and so much promise back on track.

The wheels came completely off in that loss to Sept. 25 and kept the team skidding into a precarious situation it did not want to be in again &045; try to clinch a division title with a loss on your record.

Right now it’s not about who loses in the conference, who wins and what the standings say come Monday morning. The Braves need to win and win bad for anything to start falling their way.

&8220;We’re going to recover,&8221; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said last week. &8220;We’re going to be positive. We’ve got a good football team, a good young football team. We’ve been here before. We must improve our execution on offense and defense.&8221;

The Braves have indeed been here before, but being in this same situation is about as helpful as putting your hand in that same pot of hot grease &045; you may have been here before, but is stings just as bad, maybe even worse.

The Braves didn’t want to be in the position they were in last year, although the same scenario from 2002 has yet to play out. That team lost that early game to Alabama State to fall behind in the standings, but a disappointing loss at Texas Southern had them playing catch-up and relying on divine intervention to give the Hornets two more losses.

They got just one, and the Hornets went to Birmingham.

Now that the Braves have lost again to Alabama State, again they can’t afford another loss.

Yet issues must be addressed. Can the Braves get back to moving the ball on offense like they did in the season opener?

The passing game has yet to put up the big numbers it did in the season opener, and anyone who watched the game film saw the offense will remain grounded until the line can pick up the blitz.

And can the defense stop the run? The weakness up the middle is evident right now, and the Braves need a solid middle linebacker so bad they might try to find some loophole to give Omega Logan another year of eligibility.

The more they struggle stopping the run, the more people they will put in the box and the more vulnerable they become to giving up a big pass play.

Have they learned from last season? The scenario is almost a carbon copy. Last year the Braves had a bye week after the Alabama State game, dominated Prairie View but choked at Texas Southern.

This week is Prairie View, and next week is Texas Southern.

We’re about to find out.

Adam Daigle

is sports editor of The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at (601) 445-3632 or at