Alcorn wins SWAC Championship, will face North Carolina A&T in Celebration Bowl
LORMAN — The Alcorn State Braves won their rematch against the Southern University Jaguars Saturday evening to win back-to-back Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships.
Alcorn won 39-24.
The win secured Alcorn’s second straight trip and third overall to meet the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion in the Celebration Bowl. The opponent on Dec. 21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta is two-time defending Celebration Bowl champion North Carolina A&T.
The Braves defense in the second half propelled Alcorn to victory. With 3:40 left in the game, it looked like Southern’s chance of scoring another touchdown to take the lead was in the bag. Jarod Sims ran up the left side of the defense but Qwynnterrio Cole stopped Sims in his tracks and forced the Jaguars’ to turn the ball over on downs. Braves Head Coach Fred McNair said it was a huge momentum shift for the Braves.
“I thought Qwynnterrio did a great job coming in and filling it in to make that stop,” McNair said. “Great call by Coach [Cedric] Thornton, the guys that were in position to make the play, made the play.”
The Braves answered with a six-yard touchdown run by De’Shawn Waller, giving the Braves a 32-24 lead.
Then on the Jaguars’ next possession, Southern University’s Ladarius Skelton threw his third interception of the game to the Braves Taurence Wilson. Wilson ran for a 53-yard interception for a touchdown, sealing Alcorn State’s ticket to the Celebration Bowl. McNair said one of the keys for the championship game was stopping Skelton.
“We did a great job of containing him with his legs and made him throw some balls,” McNair said. “He threw some up to us so that was a key to it.”
The game began with four combined turnovers in the first half. On the bright side for both teams, Jaguars’ Jarod Sims ran for a 32-yard touchdown run. Then with 1:56 in the first quarter, Braves’ Javen Morrison returned a kickoff for an 89-yard touchdown. At the end of the first half, the Braves led 16-14 over the Jaguars.
The second half was a different story. Both teams scored 33 points in the second half while in the first half the teams combined for 30 points.
Cesar Barajas kicked a 41-yard field goal for Southern University. Then, the Braves answered back in the fourth quarter with a 56-yard touchdown pass from Felix Harper to LeCharles Pringle to retake the lead at 22-17. Then, Skelton ran for an 8-yard touchdown for the Jaguars fourth lead of the game. But then it was all Braves and they cruised to winning their 17th conference championship in program history.
Pringle was named the SWAC Championship Offensive Most Valuable Player. His receiving total for the game was a career-high at 145 yards. Pringle said the touchdown pass was all coaching and McNair made the right play at the right time.
Juwan Taylor was named the SWAC Defensive MVP. Taylor tied his career-high of 11 tackles and picked up an interception and a forced fumble. On Saturday, Taylor played in his first SWAC championship game. He said he feels blessed moving onto his first bowl game.
“I can’t even explain it right now,” Taylor said. “I want to thank Coach McNair for giving me the opportunity to further my education and play football for this great school.”
The Braves will travel to Atlanta for the Celebration Bowl at 11 a.m. on Dec. 21 to face North Carolina A&T at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.