Alcorn’s future is bright

Published 3:07 am Sunday, November 21, 2010

It was an up and down year on the Reservation for Alcorn State football fans.

First, there was the surprising high of the team’s first 3-0 start to the season since 1993.

Then came the low of a four-game losing streak, which included three conference losses that seemed to knock the Braves out of the SWAC East division race.

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However, the rollercoaster went up again after two straight wins and two straight Jackson State losses put the Braves in control of their own championship destiny with two games left.

However, the coaster derailed the very week, as Prairie View A&M scored a touchdown with 4 seconds left to beat the Braves and eliminate them from championship contention.

The season then ended on a sour note Saturday with a 27-14 loss to arch-rival Jackson State.

Alcorn had beaten the Tigers 14-7 last year and had taken that momentum into the offseason, which helped lead to their fast start to 2010.

However, while the Braves won’t have a victory over the Tigers to build off of for next season, they do have something just as important — a much improved season and much improved team.

While a 5-6 overall record and 4-5 SWAC record isn’t what head coach Earnest Collins wants, it is a far cry from the Alcorn teams that won two games in back to back seasons in 2007 and 2008.

Collins has brought a stability to the program that was sorely lacking.

Not only did the Braves have just four total wins in two years, they also had three different head coaches three consecutive years.

Johnny Thomas was fired after a 2-9 season in 2007 and Ernest Jones lasted just one season before he too was let go in a very controversial fashion by then-athletic director Darren Hamilton.

Collins, who was the defensive coordinator under Jones and who was actually one of seven assistant coaches who were fired and then rehired, was named interim coach for the 2009 season.

Collins did a remarkable job that season of keeping the Braves competitive, and the team actually finished second in the East division, when they were predicted to finish last.

And this year, thanks to more experience and some good recruiting from Collins, now the permanent coach, the team performed even better.

The final record showed the team had a 5-6 record, but that record could have easily been 8-3.

Alcorn lost three games — to Texas Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View — in the final minute. Win just two of those and the Braves are playing in Birmingham, Ala., in the SWAC title game.

But Braves fans can take heart in the fact that many key players from this year’s team will be back next season.

Quarterback Brandon Bridge has the fans excited the most, as he performed remarkably well in his true freshman season.

He has amazing athletic ability, but sometimes made freshman mistakes that cost his team.

With another year of experience under his belt, those mistakes should greatly lessen.

Alcorn’s two top running backs — Arnold Walker and Gabriel Nash — also return next year to make up what should be a powerful backfield.

So while this season might have ended in disappointment, Alcorn fans should look forward to next season with great anticipation, because it might just hold something special.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at, or by phone at 601-445-3632.