Alcorn State comes back to defeat Prairie View A&M, 34-21

Published 12:52 am Sunday, October 15, 2017

By Brandon O’Connor

The Vicksburg Post

Backup quarterback Noah Johnson led Alcorn State back from a two score deficit to defeat the Prairie View A&M 34-21 Saturday in front of 21,509 fans at Spinks-Casem Stadium.

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Johnson filled in for starter Lenorris Footman, who missed portions of the second and third quarters with what head coach Fred McNair referred to as cramps, and led the Braves to three touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter.

Johnson completed 9 of 15 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown, and ran for two short scores.

“I thought he (Footman) got a little exhausted out there doing a lot of scrambling,” Alcorn coach Fred McNair said.  “He did a whole lot of scrambling drills there in the first quarter and the second quarter. He got a little fatigued and tired and started cramping up. That is why we’ve got a number two guy and he’s (Johnson) as good as a number one guy.”

Prairie View jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Johnson led the Braves (5-2, 4-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) to 24 second-quarter points. His 12-yard touchdown pass to Charles Hughes with 34 seconds to go put Alcorn ahead 24-14 at halftime.

“I really just go in there to move the ball, execute, run the offense, I see zero zero every time,” Johnson said. “I knew we had to get the ball in the hole and that is what we did. I go into the week like a starter so when I go in the game, I just try to calm myself down, no jitters and just go out there and play football the way I know how to play.”

Johnson replaced Footman in the middle of the second quarter following a targeting call on Panther linebacker Willie Green. The penalty set the Braves up with first-and-10 at the Panthers 14-yard line.

Two plays later, Johnson took it into the end zone himself from 8 yards out for his first rushing touchdown of the season to cut the Prairie View lead to 14-7.

Footman returned for the majority of the next Alcorn drive, but McNair turned to Johnson on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. The backup quarterback responded by punching it in for his second rushing touchdown of the game, tying the game at 14 with 4:46 left in the first half.

Johnson played the remainder of the half at quarterback and led his team to a field goal and the touchdown to Hughes in the final minute. It was Johnson’s first touchdown pass of the season.

“He (Johnson) goes out and plays hard,” McNair said. “I see it every day in practice the execution and determination. He wants to be there. He wants to be a starter. I thank him for what he is doing as far as his leadership.”

Despite allowing two early scoring drives to the Panthers, the Braves’ defense dominated the majority of the first half and held Prairie View to only nine rushing yards on six carries in the half. Quarterback Neiko Hollins finished the first half with 128 passing yards and two touchdowns, but the Braves didn’t allow the Panthers to gain another yard through the air until the fourth quarter.

“We just started off a little sluggish, different time our first two o’clock game, so we just had to settle down and really focus in on the task that was at hand,” defensive back O.J. O’Neal said. “From there on we just buckled down and got after them.”

The defense forced two turnovers in the game, including a strip sack fumble caused by Trae Ferell. He picked it up and returned it 49 yards to the 1-yard line, where he fumbled while celebrating, resulting in a touchback.

“Act like you’ve been in the end zone before,” McNair said of his message to Ferell after the play. “Run through the end zone. I don’t care if you run through the end zone and touch the scoreboard with the ball. I will take that penalty. Just dropping the ball before you cross the goal line, I think that it a little immature as a football player. We score that touchdown and it is 41 points now and they are down by three scores.”

Johnson started the third quarter at quarterback for Alcorn, but Footman returned midway through the second offensive possession of the half and played the remainder of the game except for the final drive with his team up by two scores with only two minutes to play.

Footman finished 11-of-17 passing for 138 yards and also ran for 38 yards including a 7-yard touchdown. Johnson finished with 90 passing yards, along with five yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

“I think now you look at it, you are playing two quarterbacks and I think when you look at us now, you are preparing for two quarterbacks instead of just one,” McNair said. “That is a weapon. They are going to see this film and understand that number two guy is just as good. We are going to continue to work and if Footman is unable to go I know Noah will be ready. That is how we are going to approach it.”

The Braves overcame 16 penalties for 142 yards as they remained undefeated in the SWAC with a trip to West Division leader Grambling scheduled for next week.