Alcorn defense makes plays against offense in spring game

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 29, 2012

Alcorn State University wide receiver Jacques Caldwell carries the ball as defensive back Hendrick Taylor goes to tackle him during the Spring Game Saturday afternoon in Lorman. The defense beat the offense 24-13. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)


lorman — It was offense versus defense Saturday at Spinks-Casem Stadium on the campus of Alcorn State University, and the Braves’ defense left little doubt which unit is stronger through spring practice.

The Alcorn State defense tallied five turnovers and scored three touchdowns to take the spring game by a score of 24-13.

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Alcorn is still in the process of selecting a new head football coach for the 2012 season, so director of football operations, Todd McDaniel, was in charge of Saturday’s scrimmage.

McDaniel said the defense dominated the offense early in the game, but the offense was able to make some progress in the second half.

“The defense was making plays early in the scrimmage,” he said. “We came out and moved it a little bit better in the second half. We still have a lot of work to do.”

McDaniel said much of Alcorn’s early offensive struggles stemmed from shifting from a spread formation last year to a double-wing formation this year known as the “Brave Bone.”

Alcorn State University wide receiver Terrance Lewis runs towards the end zone as linebacker Denzel Reed and defensive back Devon Francois look to tackle him during the Spring Game Saturday afternoon in Lorman. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

McDaniel said the quarterbacks timing was off and the center-quarterback exchange was rusty early.

McDaniel said the Braves’ were short-handed on the offensive line coming into Saturday’s scrimmage, and they had two more forced out of Saturday’s action with injuries.

The defense dominated the first 15 minutes of play. Denzel Reed recovered a fumble, which resulted in three points for the defense — each turnover that did not result in a touchdown was worth three points.

On the next possession an errant snap from the 25-yard line resulted in a defensive touchdown when Damien Wilson fell on the ball in the end zone.

Three plays later Zavier Johnson intercepted a pass by quarterback Darius Smith and took it 35 yards for a touchdown to give the defense a 15-0 advantage after one quarter.

The defense pushed its lead to 18-0 when Desmond Stevenson recovered a fumble by running back Arnold Walker in the second quarter.

The offense’s first points came late in the first half when kicker Ernesto Santillo made a 20-yard field goal to make the score 18-3.

The big highlight for the offense came early in the second half when Smith connected with Rodney Whitmore Jr. for a 43-yard completion, which set up another field goal by Santillo.

Smith finished the game 4-11 passing with 70 yards and an interception.

The offense finally found the end zone midway through the third quarter when Walker punched in a 1-yard run. Santillo added the extra point to make the score 18-13.

But the defense ended the game with a bang, as Deion Roberson intercepted a pass from quarterback Brandon Vessel and took it back 50 yards for another defensive touchdown.

The offense tallied 189 yards in the game. Jacques Caldwell led the rushing attack with 44 yards on six carries. Alondrea Young rushed for 39 yards on nine carries.

McDaniel said with the spring game now complete, the Alcorn coaching staff will now evaluate each players’ performance and start getting them ready to come back in the fall.

Alcorn was scheduled to announce its new head coach after Saturday’s game, but Alcorn president M. Christopher Brown II decided to delay the decision until the week of May 7-11.

“We want to do it by early May, so it’s early enough in May that (the new coach) still has one week left of spring recruiting,” Brown said.

Brown said the search committee is down to four candidates: Michael Armour, Fredrick Farrier, James Hopson and McDaniel.

Brown said McDaniel has done a good job of maintaining the program in the interim.

“He has managed the facilities, handled recruiting and done a good job to keep the players together,” Brown said.

McDaniel said he hopes he has done enough to remain the Braves’ coach.

“I hope I get the opportunity to lead the program,” he said.

Alcorn will open the 2012 season against Grambling State Sept. 2 in Shreveport, La.