‘Growing pains’ plague Braves in loss

Published 12:10 am Friday, September 7, 2007

LORMAN — Offensive woes and key defensive break-downs were the culprit in the Alcorn State University Braves 21-3 lost to University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.

“We played inconsistently tonight,” ASU head coach Johnny Thomas said. “The inconsistency was the result of our quarterback position.”

Thomas said Tony Hobson Jr. was the planned starter, after Chris Walker suffered a severe thigh bruise in the Grambling game last week. But Hobson injured his throwing hand in practice earlier this week.

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Thomas went to plan C and started an inexperienced Tim Buckley, but soon replaced him with the injured Walker.

“We weren’t expecting Chris to play at all this week,” Thomas said. “After a visit to the hospital Wednesday and Chris not feeling much pain, we knew he would be able to take some reps, we didn’t know how much.”

Alcorn’s first scoring opportunity came on their second drive of the game. On a second down play from the 4-yard line, Walker hit Nate Hughes for a 52-yard gain. The Braves worked the ball down inside the red zone only to get stopped. Alexander Oelfke’s 41-yard field goal attempt sailed left.

The Braves wouldn’t get another scoring attempt in the first half.

UAPB capitalized on the excellent field position from their own 40 that resulted from a short ASU punt late in the second quarter.

It only took UAPB four plays to put the ball in the end zone from a 21-yard pass to Jason Heflin from quarterback Chris Wallace.

“The defense played well tonight,” Thomas said. “We just gave up some big plays at the wrong times.”

The second half didn’t fair much better for the Braves. Their best drive of the night came in the third quarter.

They sustained a 41-yard drive that stalled on the 2-yard line and the Braves were only able to get three points, from Oelfke.

“Every time we got in scoring position, we got bogged down,” Thomas said. “We are still having growing pains on the offensive line and it’s going to take time to get there.”

A UAPB touchdown pass from Johnathan Moore to Demetrice Beverly with 4:14 left in the third quarter took the wind out of the Braves for good.

“Our defense gave us the chances to score,” UAPB head coach Maurice Forte said. “We are still a long way from where we need to be but the win tonight was good for us.”

The Golden Lions wore the Braves down in the fourth quarter tacking on a final touchdown off a 5-yard run from Martell Mallett.

“Not being able to control the ball hurt us tonight,” Thomas said. “Our defense was on the field way too long. They wore us down.”

Thomas said he was disappointed in the way things were going so far this season.

“We need to be 50 percent and we aren’t there,” Thomas said. “I’m frustrated and disappointed. It’s my job to keep the players and coaches up. We have to come out next week and work on the things that are killing us.”

Alcorn travels to University of Alabama-Birmingham on Sept. 15. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.