Alcorn defense rises up for Braves in victory

Published 1:49 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

LORMAN — Entering the fourth quarter, Alcorn State’s first home game against Mississippi Valley State Saturday was still just a one-possession contest.

Alcorn led 18-10 with just under nine minutes to go, but MVSU was driving and had gotten the ball past midfield.

It was at this point that Alcorn forced one of two fourth-quarter fumbles that either led to a scoring play or set up one.

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The Braves forced a fumble on the Alcorn 47, and Braves defensive back Jameson Smith ran the ball all the way back to the MVSU 4. On the next play, Alcorn’s Gabriel Nash scored on a 2-yard run to put the Braves up 25-10 with 8:07 left in the fourth.

The second forced fumble came less than a minute later. Alcorn defensive lineman Caesar Cobb knocked the ball loose from the MVSU ball carrier at the Delta Devils’ 24. The Braves’ Brandon Morris then picked the ball up and ran it into the end zone, making the score 32-10 with 7:38 to go.

That would end up being the final score of the game, and Braves head coach Earnest Collins said the fourth quarter fumble recoveries made the difference.

“We challenged our kids,” Collins said. “I told our defense, ‘Look fellas, it’s all for naught if you play a great game up until the fourth quarter and then you don’t finish it,’ so coming out after halftime, the kids said, ‘We have got to finish this game,’ and they went out and did just that.”

MVSU quarterbacks Paul Roberts and Marvin Pittman were under pressure from the Alcorn defense all night, and were sacked for a combined 14 times, which tied for an FCS record.

“(The pressure we were getting) was the key to the football game,” Collins said. “We knew coming in from last year that Paul Roberts was an outstanding quarterback, and you have got to (contain) him.

“Last year, we had our hands on him about nine times and we missed about five or six sacks on him last year because the kid is so strong and powerful that he can get out of your grasp. We talked to our kids all week about that very thing, that if you get your hands on him you have to pull him to the ground, and the kids did a great job with that.”

MVSU was the first team to get on the board, with a 24-yard field goal by Carlos Sanchez with 7:28 to go in the first.

Alcorn scored its first touchdown at the 2:06 mark in the first on a Terrance Lewis 23-yard pass from quarterback Tim Buckley.

In the second, MVSU scored its final touchdown on a Johey Hargrett 7-yard carry.

With three minutes to go before halftime, Buckley scored a touchdown on a 2-yard carry, making the score 12-10 at the half.

Alcorn scored one touchdown in the third quarter on an Edward Johnson 69-yard catch.

Alcorn’s first home game in 2009 was a special occasion for reasons other than the win. The Braves honored former Alcorn quarterback and NFL great Steve McNair 30 minutes before kickoff.

The McNair family came out on the field and accepted sentential clocks and game ball replicas as gifts. Alcorn president Dr. George Ross also gave a personal speech, and read a speech written by the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Collins said the win was all the more special because of the honoring of McNair.

“Steve meant so much to this university, and you would hate to have us honor him on a day like this, and you come out and lose,” Collins said.

“Steve didn’t just do a great thing for this university, he did a great thing for the SWAC, and for black quarterbacks in general.”