JSU controls Soul Bowl

Published 12:02 am Sunday, November 18, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Alcorn State University’s Terrance Lewis holds on to the ball as he is tackled by Jackson State University’s Qua Cox during the Soul Bowl Saturday at Lorman. The Tigers defeated the Braves 37-11.

LORMAN — For one Natchez High School alumnus, it was a bittersweet moment. For another one, it was nothing but sweet.

Alcorn State’s Nick Brooks reflected on the positives of head coach Jay Hopson’s inaugural season with the Braves. Jackson State’s Rico Richardson, meanwhile, got to celebrate with his team following the Tigers’ 37-11 win against Alcorn State Saturday night.

“Brotherhood,” Brooks said as he summed up the 2012 season, in which Alcorn finished 4-7 overall, 4-5 in SWAC play.

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“Coming in at the last minute with a new coach, a new offense and defense, it’s tough, but we learned a lot this year from Coach Hop.”

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Natchez-native Rico Richardson makes a catch for Jackson State before running into the end zone for a touchdown.

It was a big day for Richardson, who accounted for two of the Tigers’ touchdowns and tallied 54 yards on four catches. One came on a 37-yard touchdown pass with 6:26 in the first quarter that broke an early 3-0 Alcorn lead.

But it was Richardson’s second touchdown that was a little out of the ordinary. Trailing 6-3 at the half, Alcorn got the ball to open the third quarter but got pinned back inside its own 5-yard line and was forced to punt.

Jackson State’s Ryan Griffin blocked the punt, and Richardson chased it down to give the Tigers a 13-3 lead with just 12:50 left in the third.

“I knew they were going to try to double-team me on the punt return,” Richardson said. “They had a man free to go through, and I was just going to get the ball. I knew (Griffin) was going to get through, and I was going to make a good play.”

Alcorn once again failed to get past its own 20 on the ensuing possession, and a poor punt gave the Tigers the ball in good field position on the ASU 30. From there, Jackson State took it in on four plays, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown run by Tommy Gooden with 9:27 left in the third.

And things continued to unravel for the Braves, as Alcorn fumbled on its own 41 with 8:47 left in the third. Javarius Conner recovered the fumble, and the Tigers took advantage of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Alcorn, setting up first down on the Braves’ 28. Gooden ran it in on the next play, giving Jackson State a 27-3 lead with 6:57 left in the third.

Hopson called the opening series of possessions in the third quarter the difference in the game, as three touchdowns was a bit much to overcome at that point.

“We lost the field in those three possessions, and they turned it into 21 points,” Hopson said. “Now it’s 27-3, and the game’s basically… I’m not going to say it’s out of reach, but we were way behind. (It was) just a big six-minute swing that kind of crushed us.”

Jackson State added a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Deising with 6:09 to go in the fourth. Alcorn finally got a touchdown with 3:52 left in the game on a 33-yard reception by Tavoris Doss from quarterback John Gibbs.

The Tigers responded with their final touchdown, a 46-yard run by Rakeem Sims with 2:48 left in regulation.

Alcorn recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff and was able to take an early 3-0 lead on a 37-yard field goal by Ernesto Santillan.

Gibbs was 18 of 43 in passing for 211 yards and a touchdown. Nick Shumaker led Alcorn in receptions with 66 yards on four receptions. Gibbs also led the team in rushing, tallying 65 yards on 14 carries.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Alcorn’s Devon Francois, left, and Brandon Thompson tackle Jackson State’s Desmond Dixon.

Jackson State’s Clayton Moore was 8-for-17 in passing for 86 yards and a touchdown. Sims finished with 154 yards rushing on 26 carries.

With the win, Jackson State (7-4, 7-2) will head to the SWAC championship game to face Arkansas-Pine Bluff (9-2, 8-1). Richardson said it was exciting to compete for a SWAC title in his senior season, but it was also sweet to get a win just 40 minutes from his hometown.

“It feels great, being in front of all your family and friends,” Richardson said. “Just doing it in front of them, it feels great.”

Brooks, also a senior, said he feels the Braves have a strong future under Hopson.

“We have a lot of young guys,” Brooks said. “I call this the acclimation year, where you just come in and get a feel for everything with the new system.”