Alcorn State’s season defined by close games

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 23, 2008

It was a fitting way for the season to end.

In a way, the pass that was batted away in the end zone as time expired to seal a 26-21 loss to Jackson State in the Capital City Classic was a microcosm of Alcorn State’s season.

The Braves have been in so many games this season only to come up just short in the final minutes or seconds.

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They lost their season opener to Southeastern Louisiana by six points when a fourth-down pass went incomplete in the end zone with 8 seconds left, and they lost to Southern by three points by giving up a touchdown to the Jaguars with less than two minutes left.

They then lost to Texas Southern by a single point when kicker Tyler Richardson missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired and then dropped a seven-point decision to Alabama State when the Hornets scored a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining.

Saturday’s loss to the arch-rival Tigers was Alcorn’s fifth loss by seven points or less. And when you lose a total of nine games, it can get very discouraging when you realize that if you make a few plays here or there, you’re looking at a 7-5 season instead of a 2-10 season.

However, first-year head coach Ernest Jones isn’t looking at it that way. Jones says he is excited about the future of the program, and uses the close losses as a motivational tool instead of a discouraging fact.

“We’re trying to build this football program and build it right,” Jones said after Saturday’s game. “We fight for four quarters and give ourselves a chance to win. I told them to come out and compete and they came out and competed. I told them to fight for four quarters and give themselves a chance to win and they did that. Now lets go out and win those games.”

Jones has been talking up the Alcorn State program ever since he was named head coach last December. He inherited a program that had gone stale and lacked fan support under former coach Johnny Thomas.

He never misses a chance to hype his program and get the Alcorn State name out there. The fans seem to have bought into his words. Now the wins need to come.

It’s true that the Braves were more competitive in many games this year and could easily have had a winning record if more breaks had gone their way.

Now it’s time for Jones to hit the recruiting trail and tell the recruits what he’s been telling the fans for the past year; that they are building a championship program and will build it the right way.

“I’m excited about the future of this program,” Jones said. “Now we’ve got to go out and recruit and get some better athletes in here to continue to build the program.”

And Jones only had to look over to the other sideline on Saturday to see how to build a championship program. In only his third year, Jackson State coach Rick Comegy has led the Tigers to back-to-back SWAC championship games, and will be playing for their second straight championship on Dec. 13.

Comegy took over a situation similar to the situation Jones took over, with a once proud program struggling with an apathetic fan base and losses on the field. Comegy built a winner, and Jones can too.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter what words come out of the coaches mouth.

It only matters how many W’s end up in the final tally.