Braves Shine on Senior Day

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The Seniors for the 2017 Alcorn State University (ASU) Braves’ football team played in their final home game on November 11th as the Devils from Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) rolled into Spinks-Casem Stadium. As 2:00 pm approached, the Senior Day festivities ended and the Braves prepared for a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Eastern Division matchup. Following a convincing win against the Alabama A&M University Bulldogs a week ago, the Braves hoped to maintain their high level of play. Alcorn entered the game with a record of (6-3, 4-1) while Mississippi Valley State began the matchup at (2-6, 1-3).

Alcorn won the coin toss and deferred to receive the football first in the second half. The Devils began their drive on the 33 yard-line. Mississippi Valley State was able to convert a first-down on their opening drive but was forced to punt just three plays later after Defensive end Michael Brooks bull-rushed the Devils’ Right tackle Roderick Foster for a sack. The Braves’ offense trotted onto the field for their 1st drive of the day. Senior Running back De’Lance Turner received the first two handoffs of the game. Two carries later, he was over 50 yards rushing. The Devils’ defense seemed overmatched quickly but on starting Quarterback Noah Johnsons’ first throw, Mississippi Valley State’s Safety Mark Pegues intercepted the pass and returned it 17 yards. Just three plays later, the Devils were again punting the football away to the Braves. On 2nd down of Alcorn’s second offensive series, Johnson pulled back the handoff from Turner and raced 37 yards for the first Braves’ touchdown of the day. With 8:42 remaining in the 1st quarter, Alcorn lead 7-0. The Braves kicked the ball back to the Devils and forced a three and out with the help of a 3rd down sack by Linebacker Terry Whittington. After the Valley State punt, Alcorn took over possession on their own eight yard-line. A negative run and a fumbled but recovered snap by Alcorn, left the Braves with a 3rd and 19 on the half-yard line. On 3rd down, Johnson received the snap from the shotgun and showed sneaky speed as he escaped a sack and threw a pass for over 50 yards to Wide receiver Norlando Veals for a huge Braves’ first-down. Two plays later, Veals caught another pass for 12 yards. After a pair of carries from Running back PJ Simmons, Johnson found Veals wide open in the end zone for an Alcorn touchdown.

As the second quarter began, the Braves held a 14-0 lead over the Devils. Valley State took over possession and Quarterback Jett Even immediately threw a deep pass to Wide receiver Steven McIntosh for 45 yards. The big pass put Valley into Alcorn territory for the first time of the game. Following good defense from Braves’ Safety Quintin Smith, Trae Ferrell delivered a huge sack on 3rd down to force another MVSU punt. Alcorn’s next few drives were uncharacteristic. Four total penalties resulted in a Braves’ punt.  Nevertheless, the Devils were unable to capitalize on the punt as Alcorn again forced Valley State to punt after just three plays. The Braves, however, were unable to move the football on their second consecutive series. The Devils did a great job of loading the box and not allowing Alcorn to score with the run. With 4:45 remaining in the half, the Braves again were forced to punt. The defense went unbothered again as the Devils punted quickly. On the ensuing series for the Braves, Turner forcefully sprinted 36 yards for an Alcorn State touchdown. While many spectators and fans believed Alcorn wouldn’t get the football again in this half, the defense prevailed. A pair of quick powerful sacks by Senior Defensive end Ramonte Bell and smartly used timeouts by Head Coach Fred McNair left Mississippi Valley State no other reasonable option but to again punt. Johnson lead his offense on the field with less than two minutes remaining in the half. The Braves’ offense was high-tempo and no huddle. Johnson threw quick completed passes to Turner and Wide receivers Veal, Jalen Walker and Tarvares Johnson ultimately leading to a two-yard touchdown run by Turner. The Braves entered halftime with a commanding 28-0 lead over MVSU.

Out of the half, Alcorn received the football. Again, Valley loaded the box in hopes of containing the Braves’ rushing attack. After a few modest runs from Turner, chaos occurred. Three straight penalties all against Alcorn resulted in a 2nd and 32. Johnson received the snap under center and looked to Veals down the sideline for a long Braves’ touchdown. With 12:08 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Alcorn lead 35-0. The Braves’ defense never let up in this game. Even while being ahead by 5 touchdowns, the defense flew to the football. The group gang tackled and played with tremendous confidence as they forced another 3 and out. Following the Devils’ punt, Johnson initiated the read option correctly, as he broke free for a 33-yard touchdown run to put Alcorn ahead 42-0. On the Devil’s ensuing drive, Braves’ Senior Linebacker Christian Brown recovered a fumble to regain possession for Alcorn. Soon after the fumble recovery, Johnson found Veals running free across the middle of the field for a 66-yard touchdown.

The 4th quarter started with a massive Braves’ lead. Alcorn would go on to win the game 59-0. ASU improves to (7-3, 5-1) and Valley State falls to (2-7, 1-4). The defense played elite, shutting out the Devils. Alcorn’s defense allowed a stingy 11 total rushing yards and only 9 total first downs. In addition, the Braves’ defense forced 9 punts in the game and added 6 sacks. The offense was impressive as well. Johnson went 12-19 with 297 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. He also added 6 carries for 134 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Turner finished with 18 carries, 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. Simmons finished with 9 carries for 103 yards and 1 touchdown. Veals ended his incredible receiving day with 9 receptions for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns.

With this win, Alcorn State clinched their 4th consecutive Eastern Division SWAC Championship. Also, the Braves earned a guaranteed slot in the SWAC Championship game in Houston, Texas on December 1st where they will take on the champion of the SWAC’s Western Division. For the first time in SWAC history, one team (Alcorn State University) will play in four consecutive Championship games. Alcorn State plays their final regular season game of the year as they travel to Jackson, Mississippi to take on the Jackson State University Tigers (2-8, 2-4) on Saturday, November 18th at 2:00 pm.

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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