Braves search for first winning streak of season today

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005

LORMAN &045; It wasn’t the two-interception day that was Alcorn cornerback Quentin Sullivan’s lasting impression last week.

It was the play he hit somebody so hard his own helmet came off.

Instead of the recepient losing his hat, the 5-8, 186 pound defender popped a Prairie View ball carrier good in last week’s win. And it was a good thing for the fans’ sake Sullivan lost him helmet &045; you didn’t need a jumbotron to see how pumped up he was after making the hit.

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&8221;Every game I go in I leave one of my straps unbuckled,&8220; said Sullivan, currently the Braves’ most experienced starter on defense. &8221;It reminds me of my favorite player Deion (Sanders). He leaves one of his chinstraps unbuckled.&8220;

Sullivan did highlight the game last week with two picks as the Braves picked up their defensive intensity significantly. The Braves ended the day with four interceptions and had their best outing of the season stopping the run, and coaches are hoping the group of inexperienced linebackers and defensive backs may have finally turned a corner.

The Braves visit Texas Southern for a 2 p.m. kickoff today, and the defense needs more of the same as the team searches for its first winning streak of the season.

&8221;A lot of drills, a lot of hollering and getting on their butts about tackling,&8220; Alcorn head coach Johnny Thomas said. &8221;That’s all it is, you know? Linebackers are making plays, getting experience, getting into the flow of the game and getting used to the intensity of the game. They’re getting used to how people hit, and they’re getting better.&8220;

The team’s run defense, like anything else, goes hand in hand with its ability to defend the pass. The Braves allowed a season-low 145 yards rushing, and the effort helped them get off the bottom in the conference in rushing defense.

That, as a result, forced Prairie View to find another means of moving the football. And four interceptions later, the Braves were celebrating in their locker room for the first time in nearly a month.

&8221;Just reading and playing disciplined,&8220; Sullivan said. &8221;Just doing what coach asked. I was just trying to be where they want me to be at. They were really a balanced team. A lot of those guys right there &045;&160;the defensive line &045; they pick it for me.&8220;

Sullivan is the most experienced player on that side of the ball following the season-ending ankle injury to corner Taurian Parks.

The Braves are so young up front with only two players who started all of last year &045; JoJuan Johnson and Robert Browne, both of whom went last year as true freshmen.

Linebackers Antonio Cooper, Lester Mosely and Lee Robinson are all new to the positions, but Mosely has picked it up. He had 14 tackles two weeks ago in the loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and had 11 against Prairie View.

&8221;When I say inexperienced linebackers, I say linebackers who never started but played a little bit last year,&8220; Thomas said. &8221;As these guys play the game, you can see their improvement and see they’re getting much tougher and tackling much better. They’re taking better angles and reacting to pass in terms of different coverages we’re running. Mosley is coming around right now, but he still has a long way to go.&8220;

Defense will come in handy today against the Tigers, who have improved significantly since last season’s awful 0-11 campaign that produced only 79 points. Under second-year head coach Steve Wilson, the Tigers netted a 17-7 win at Alabama A&M and outscored McNeese State in the second half last week when quarterback Daniel Millus got hot.

&8221;Texas Southern has a much-improved team,&8220; Thomas said. &8221;Obviously, (Wilson) did. He’s got more talent. Players are working hard. You can see on film they’re a much-improved team in all phases. Obviously, they’re doing a pretty good job of it.&8220;

The Tigers, however, are concerned about their defense against an Alcorn offense that will welcome back the services of top running back Jeremy McCoy. The Braves finally found a groove in the passing game last week with true freshman Tony Hobson throwing for 202 yards, and the running game continued to dominate.

Alcorn has the best ground game in the conference and is nearly 10 yards a game better than second-place Alabama State.

&8221;If we can stop the big plays, we’ll be OK,&8220; Wilson said. &8221;We’re basically lining up three or four freshman linebackers. As we play, they’ll get better. We know (Alcorn) is going to play hard. They’re an aggressive team up front, and they like to run the football and have a young quarterback. Both teams like to run the football, and I think the team that will win will be the team that quarterback plays the best.&8220;

That may be fine with the Braves, who like the potential Hobson has and his progress considering he missed 2

weeks of training camp. Even with the loss of Nate Hughes at receiver, others have stepped up on the outside while Charlie Spiller had his biggest game of the season last week.

&8221;It’s just phenomenal the way this young man has handled the pressure, preparation and trying to do very well himself,&8220; Thomas said. &8221;Once we decided to go with him totally, we had to feed him as much information as he could grasp. I think his preparation time and commitment to playing quarterback and to the team has enabled him to grow and develop as a quarterback in the last three or four weeks.&8220;