Braves Demolish the Bulldogs

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The Alcorn State Braves (6-3, 4-1) took the field on a gloomy autumn afternoon with hopes of staying unbeaten in the Eastern Division of Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) play. Alcorn entered the game following a disappointing blowout loss to Grambling State, then a bye week. The Braves were eager to regain their momentum as kickoff approached at Spinks-Casem Stadium. The Alabama A&M Bulldogs (3-6, 3-3) rolled into Lorman, Mississippi desperate for their first road victory of the season. The Braves began the 2:00 pm contest atop the Eastern Division of the SWAC.

The Bulldogs won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Starting Running back and leading rusher in the SWAC, DeLance Turner, received handoffs on the first two plays from scrimmage for the Braves. Both plays resulted in negative yards, ultimately forcing Alcorn to punt after a 3rd down sack. The Bulldogs’ offense ran onto the field for their first possession of the game. Quickly the presence of Terry Whittington was felt from the Linebacker position as he was able to disturb A&M’s Quarterback Damion May and deflect a pass on the opening drive for A&M. The Braves’ defense did allow a first down but was able to force a punt and the offense returned to the field. Alcorn’s offense began to show life for the first time all day. Quarterback Noah Johnson gained 26 yards on an option play which put the Braves in enemy territory. Shortly after, Turner took a handoff and broke loose for 25 additional yards. It looked as if Alcorn would surly score the game’s first touchdown as they marched into the red zone. But a pair of penalties and sacks forced the Braves to get on the board with a 24- yard field goal by Kicker Corey McCullough. The Braves lead 3-0 at the 7:14 mark in the 1st quarter. Alcorn’s defense quickly forced a 3 and out with great defensive coverage by Deago Sama and Quintin Smith. Wide receiver Norlando Veals started the surge on the Braves’ 3rd offensive series making a pair of elite catches. As the Bulldogs began to worry about stopping Alcorn’s passing attack, backup Running back PJ Simmons began his big day on the ground. On this drive, Simmons would hit a hole and take the football 30 yards up the sideline for a Braves’ touchdown. With 10 minutes played in the 1st quarter, the Braves led 10-0. A&M’s offense returned to the field and they began to move the football on the Braves’ defense. The Bulldogs ran several plays with a fast tempo in an attempt to wear down the Braves’ defense. The plan backfired when Defensive end Michael Brooks rushed the passer leading to a strip sack recovered by the Braves. Following the sack, Alcorn received excellent field position but was unable to capitalize. The Braves went 3 and out which lead to a 38-yard field goal by McCullough. The Bulldogs’ offense stuck to the same approach as they returned to the field. A high tempo, quick passing system lead to a few first downs for A&M.

As the 2nd quarter began the Bulldogs’ offense continued to move the football on Alcorn’s defense.  The Bulldogs were ultimately able to nail a 40-yard field goal to get on the scoreboard. With 13:52 remaining in the 2nd quarter, the Braves led 13-3. Alcorn’s offense ran back onto the field and Simmons received a toss. Simmons showed bedazzling elusiveness as he made Bulldog defenders miss tackles. Simmons took the toss over 50 yards but again the Braves were only able to score 3 points on another McCullough field goal. Alcorn’s lead extended to 16-3. The remainder of the 2nd quarter was played sloppy by both sides. With multiple 3 and outs by both teams, a pair of unforced turnovers haunted the Bulldogs and the Braves were unable to take advantage. A&M broke loose with a 45-yard run straight up to the middle which lead to a 7-yard touchdown pass for the Bulldogs. As both teams entered halftime the score was close at 19-10.

The Bulldogs received the football first out of the half and their strategy was clear to run the football. A&M converted two first downs directly out of the half, both on the ground. But the mighty defense from the Braves stood tall and forced a punt. Alcorn’s offense ran onto the field for the first drive of the 2nd half. On the second play for the Braves, Johnson smartly kept the ball on the read option play and raced 69 yards for a Braves’ touchdown. Alcorn pushed the lead to 26-19 with 12:24 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Things were now going from bad to worse for the Bulldogs as their offense looked terrible and they again were forced to punt. The Braves’ offense then handed the ball to Simmons. Simmons’ short body frame combined with his uncanny ability to juke left to right was fun to watch as he made A&M defenders look silly. He broke a 45-yard run which then lead to a Johnson 16-yard touchdown run. Alcorn pushed the lead even further, 33-10 with 7:40 remaining in the 3rd. The Bulldogs didn’t quit because on their very next play they threw a deep ball to their Tight end, Kalias Robertson for 65 yards. This big play for A&M lead to a successful 41-yard field goal. With just under 4 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, the game’s score was 33-10. However, A&M had no answers for Simmons as he amazed the crowd with a 43-yard touchdown run. Entering the 4th quarter Alcorn lead 40-13.

The first 3 quarters certainly decided the outcome of this football game. In the 4th quarter, both teams made a plethora of substitutions. At this point, both the Braves and Bulldogs were thinking about the future of their programs. Alcorn gave up a safety in their own end zone as A&M trimmed the lead to 40-15. Nick Brown entered the game and caught an interception for his team. The turnover lead to a  50-yard touchdown run for Turner. The Braves’ second string defense finished the game by giving up a touchdown. The game concluded with a 47-22 win for Alcorn State.

Johnson finished the game 8 of 21 passing with 74 yards. In addition, Johnson added 7 rushes for 138 yards and 2 touchdowns. Simmons ended his big day with 10 carries for 183 yards and 2 touchdowns. Turner added 11 carries for 117 yards and 1 touchdown. The Braves combined for 416 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns. McCullough had a good day with his leg ending the game 4 for 5 in field goal attempts.

The Braves will be in action again on November 11th when they host in-state rival Mississippi Valley State at Spinks-Casem Stadium at 2:00 pm in Lorman, Mississippi.

D’Vennio Warner is a Senior Broadcast/Mass Communications major from Memphis, Tennessee. He will be the Sports Editor for The Campus Chronicle for the Fall 2017/Spring 2018 semester.

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