Wins not coming for Braves

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, October 2, 2007

LORMAN — Johnny Thomas never expected this. Four games into the season, the Alcorn State head coach thought his team would be .500 at the very least. The goal was to post a winning record in each third of the 12-game season and finish with a solid season.

However, turnovers and key injuries have limited the Alcorn offense and the Braves had limped to a disastrous 0-4 start.

“We’ve just had too many mistakes on the offense and in our special teams,” Thomas said. “Our defense has played pretty well, but we’ve put them in situations difficult to defend too many times this year.”

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Through the first four games, the Braves are averaging just 9 points per game and have let turnovers dominate their games. Thomas points to Alcorn’s game against Alabama State two weeks ago as typical of how the season has gone.

“We finally broke out on offense with over 400 yards but turnovers and special teams hurt us,” Thomas said of the 28-25 loss. “A classic drive of ours this season was in the third quarter of that game. We drove the ball deep in their territory but fumbled. After that, it was all downhill.”

While turnovers may be the deciding factor in the Braves’ 0-4 start, injuries to the quarterback position have also hampered the Alcorn offense.

Starting quarterback Chris Walker injured his quadriceps and was replaced by backup Tony Hobson. However, Hobson injured his hand in the week of practice leading up to Alcorn’s game against Arkansas Pine Bluff and Walker was reinserted into the starting lineup.

“If we could just stay healthy in that position, it would help our offense greatly,” Thomas said. “I never expected the rash of injuries that we’ve had.”

The Braves will try to snap out of their losing skid when they take on Prairie View A&M Saturday afternoon in Lorman. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m.

The Panthers opened the season with two straight victories before losing their last two. They lost 12-2 to Southern two weeks ago and dropped a hard-fought 17-14 decision to Grambling in Dallas last weekend. They come into Saturday’s game with a 2-2 overall record and a 1-2 record in the SWAC and are led by a defense that has allowed just 12.5 points per game.

“Prairie View is a good team that is well coached,” Thomas said. “They know how to win because they have won twice this season. They have a very good defense and their offense is putting up points. It’s going to be a hard chore for us to pick up a win.”

After taking last weekend off, Thomas said his players are still in good spirits as they fight for that elusive first victory.

“We’ve had a good week of practice,” Thomas said. “Everyone is still positive and upbeat. The season is not over. They know what is at stake and no one has given up.”

But Thomas knows if his Braves want to pick up their first win of the 2007 campaign this weekend, they have to play a clean football game.

“The key to victory is not turning the ball over,” he said. “If we don’t turn the ball over, we can win. Turnovers make such a huge difference in who wins and loses.”

And if the Braves can do that, they may just be able to put their awful start behind them and begin the second third of their season with some momentum.

“The goal of the season was to get off to a good start,” Thomas said. “I never expected to be 0-4. I didn’t anticipate the rash of injuries and the turnovers. If we can eliminate them and get to playing solid football, we can still have a good season.”