Alcorn State Braves erase halftime deficit, defeat Southern, 48-31

Published 12:38 am Sunday, September 24, 2017

Senior De’Lance Turner posted the second-most rushing yards in school history, 272, as the ground attack for the Alcorn State University football program could not be stopped in a 48-31 victory over Southern in the conference-opener Saturday at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.

Turner averaged 13 yards per carry for the Braves (2-2, 1-0 SWAC) as he was fed the ball 21 times. He rushed for two touchdowns and also caught one.

Turner led the Braves to a whopping 402 rushing yards as a team. Junior P.J. Simmons ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns, and senior Lenorris Footman rushed for 70 yards.

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Footman, the reigning SWAC Offensive Player of the Week, threw for two touchdowns. He connected with senior Marquis Warford on a 14-yard route in the third quarter.

Defensively, sophomore Solomon Muhammad shined again with a game-high 13 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. He returned an interception 71 yards in the first quarter. Junior Leishaun Ealey was also in double-figures with 10 tackles which matched his career-high.

The Braves trailed 24-10 early in the second quarter when they scored 31 unanswered points to take control and leap in front 41-24. The Jaguars (1-3, 0-1 SWAC) got off to a fast start as quarterback Austin Howard threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Howard made his first start in two weeks for the Jags.

Southern’s Devon Benn rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown.

On the first series of the game, the Jags moved the chains three times, but were held to a 35-yard field goal attempt by Cesar Barajas which was good. Southern led 3-0 with 10:27 left in the first quarter.

After an interception, SU was threatening again and had it on the Alcorn seven-yard line when Muhammad intercepted a pass in the center of the field and ran it back 71 yards. The Braves tied the game 3-3 on a 39-yard field goal by sophomore Corey McCullough at the 5:26 mark of the first.

The Jags regained the lead 10-3 early in the second quarter. It came on a screen pass from Howard to Benn that went 23 yards. The drive was setup after Alcorn mishit a punt that only went three yards on its prior possession.

SU added-on with a one-yard touchdown rush by Benn to go up 17-3 with 12:07 remaining in the half. The Jags started the drive with great field possession after a 42-yard punt return by Danny Johnson put the ball on the Alcorn 24.

The Braves punched back with a seven-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by plays from Turner. He started it off with a 36-yard rush through the center, and capped it with a 17-yard reception as he carried defenders into the end zone. It cut the deficit to 17-10 with 9:30 left in the half as Turner accounted for 57 yards on the series.

The Jags quickly answered with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Howard to Dennis Craig. The screen pass to the right came on the fourth play of the series as SU went back up 24-10 halfway through the second.

Alcorn responded with its potent ground attack which resulted in a touchdown and chopped the deficit to 24-17 at the 5:54 mark.

After a three-and-out by the Alcorn defense, the offense kept powering it on the ground at the end of the half. A 21-yard rush by Turner moved the ball into Jags territory, and a 15-yard scramble by Footman got the Braves into the red zone. McCullough drained a 36-yard field goal to make it a 24-20 game heading into the intermission.

On the first drive of the second half, the Braves took the lead for the first time 27-24. It came on a 52-yard rush through the middle by Turner. He ran for 74 yards on the drive as Alcorn continued to pound it on the ground.

On Alcorn’s very next series, the Braves started with good field position and took advantage with a four-play, 37-yard drive. The scoring play was an 11-yard rush by Simmons through the right as he broke a pair of tackles to increase the lead to 34-24 with 10:54 left in the third quarter. The series also included a 13-yard scramble by Footman.

The Braves extended the lead to 41-24 with 6:30 remaining in the third quarter after a 14-yard touchdown reception to Warford. Rushes of 21 and 20 yards, respectively, by Turner setup the score as he was shredding through the SU tackle attempts.

Southern got back in it 41-31 after taking advantage of a miscue by the Braves. A bad snap was fumbled, recovered by the Jaguars and returned 19 yards for a touchdown by Aaron Tiller.

The Jags got a stop defensively, and tried to keep chipping away, but a 28-yard field goal attempt was blocked by senior Michael Brooks.

Southern tried to make one last push late, but on a 4th-and-7, Howard was sacked by Brooks and sophomore Kwanzi Jackson with under three minutes left.

Turner put an exclamation point on his night with a 49-yard touchdown rush through the middle as the Braves were trying to milk the clock. It upped the score to 48-31 with 1:56 remaining.

Up next, Alcorn will play a non-conference game at Texas Southern at 8 p.m. on Friday. The Braves are 33-18-4 all-time against TSU and are looking to beat the Tigers for the sixth consecutive year.