Alcorn wins over Jackson State with big plays in kicking game

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2006

JACKSON &8212; The Alcorn State special teams came through when it mattered yet again.

Nate Hughes returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown and Lee Robinson blocked a last-second field goal to help the Braves (5-5, 4-4 SWAC) come back to defeat archrival Jackson State (6-5, 5-4) 32-31 Saturday in the Capital City Classic.

Chris Walker capped off a nine play, 94-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Nate Hughes to give the Braves their first lead since the first quarter with 1:54 remaining in the game. A 48-yard bomb from Walker to Antonio DeJarnette helped set up the touchdown.

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&8220;I knew if we got the ball back we could score,&8221; Walker said. &8220;The line came up to me and told me to dig deep.&8221;

The Tigers weren&8217;t finished, however, as they drove 52 yards in just under two minutes, setting up a 40-yard field goal attempt by

freshman kicker Eric Perri, which was blocked as time expired, filling the field with celebrating Braves and dejected Tigers.

&8220;I knew this was for my team,&8221; Robinson said. &8220;I knew we had to make a play.&8221;

&8220;I was so happy I felt like dancing, but my ankle was hurting,&8221; said Alcorn defensive end Martin Jackson.

Hughes was named the offensive player of the game.

The first quarter looked like the game might be a track meet, as each team scored on its first two possessions.

The Braves opened the scoring, as Walker tossed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Ocie Brown Jr. on Alcorn&8217;s first play from scrimmage. Jonathan Williams added the extra point, giving the Braves a 7-0 lead.

Jackson State answered right back, as Dorian Smith scored on a 31-yard run on a fourth and two play to tie the game.

Extracurriculars on the ensuing kickoff caused the ejection of Alcorn fullback Jacob Davis.

The Braves were able to score once again, as Walker hooked up with Hughes for a 20-yard touchdown pass.

That would be Alcorn&8217;s last touchdown of the first half.

Jackson State tied the game when Smith plowed into the end zone from two yards out, and a string of Alcorn bad luck helped the Tigers to a 28-14 lead.

Alcorn receiver Charlie Spiller was ejected from the game, a strange penalty sequence turned what would have been a Jackson State punt into a first down on a drive which the Tigers later scored on and a series of bad penalties gave Jackson all the momentum.

Hughes said the team took the Spiller loss personally.

&8220;It was hard to see my boy (Spiller) get put out in his last game (against Jackson State),&8221; Hughes said. &8220;We wanted to win it for him and it put us to the next level. DeJarnette made some plays, Ocie made some plays.&8221;

With the Braves trailing 28-14 at halftime, the momentum shifted quickly with Hughes&8217; punt return.

&8220;That was great blocking,&8221; Hughes said. &8220;I don&8217;t even think I was touched.&8221;

Following Hughes&8217; touchdown, the Braves forced a fumble and were able to net a field goal, cutting the deficit to 28-24.

Perri kicked a 44-yard field goal for the Tigers to give them a one touchdown lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Another Jackson State miscue gave the Braves an opportunity, as a snap went well over the head of Tiger quarterback Jimmy Oliver, which he kicked out of the end zone for a safety, putting the Braves behind 31-26 and setting up the dramatic finish.

Walker was 15-of-25 passing for 219 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Hughes caught three passes for 34 yards and two touchdowns, and had the punt return. Brown caught three passes for 79 yards and a score.

Oliver led the Tigers with a highly efficient 17-of-21 passing performance for 148 yards and a touchdown.

The Braves will take on Grambling State on the road Dec. 2, while Jackson State&8217;s season is now complete.