Braves find a way in Capital City Classic|[11/19/06]

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 19, 2006

JACKSON – All Alcorn State quarterback Chris Walker and his offensive mates could do was watch and hope.

Jackson State lined up for a potential game-winning field goal from 40 yards out. Place-kicker Eric Perri had made a 44-yarder in the third quarter to put the Tigers up 31-24.

This time, Perri’s team was down 32-31 with just seven seconds left. The snap was a bit high, and Perri rushed his kick. It caught a piece of a Tiger lineman and bounded well right and short, no good.

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For the delirious Braves and their fans, a fourth straight Capital City Classic was in Alcorn State’s hands.

Walker, who started the season as a back-up, led Alcorn 94 yards in a little over two minutes to put the Braves (5-5, 4-4 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference) in the lead at 32-31 after a two-yard TD toss to Nate Hughes with 1 minute, 54 seconds left.

&#8220I just thank God for my offensive line. They made the blocks and allowed me to get the ball to my receivers,” Walker said.

The Braves trailed 28-14 at the half and had to play the last three quarters without its top offensive weapon in receiver Charlie Spiller who was ejected after arguing with Jackson State corner Carlton Brown.

&#8220They lost their best corner but we lost Spiller who’s like our Superman,” Walker said. &#8220And then we get down 28-14, but at that point, we just dug deep.”

It was other Braves like Port Gibson’s Ocie Brown Jr., Hughes and Antonio DeJarnette that helped make up for the absence of Spiller.

It was Hughes’ electrifying 71-yard punt return for a touchdown, three minutes deep into the second half that started the Braves’ comeback.

A 20-yard field goal by Jonathan Williams two minutes later made it 28-24.

Jackson State responded with a ground chugging drive that ended with Perri’s 44-yard field goal to boost the lead back to seven at 31-24 with 1:59 left in the third.

Brown, who caught a 55-yard TD pass on the game’s first play from scrimmage, came back to snag a 23-yard catch for a first down that changed the field position early in the fourth quarter.

The Braves were able to pin JSU back and that led to a safety after a shotgun snap got away from quarterback Jimmy Oliver. The safety made it 31-26 with 13:03 to play.

Alcorn did nothing after the free kick and punted back to JSU. The Tigers picked up a pair of first downs to midfield but then was forced to punt with 4:51 to play. The Braves took over at their own six.

A pass interference call, one of three in the game on the Tigers, got the Braves out of its own goal post shadow. Then Walker hit DeJarnette for a 13-yard gain to the Braves’ 34. A 16-yard pass to Maresse Rose took the ball to midfield.

Then Walker decided to go back uptop, firing a deep pass that DeJarnette caught on his knees at the JSU 2.

&#8220I saw the safety was going to blitz and when we came, that left them 1-on-1 on DJ. That was something we took advantage of all game. We did it on the first play of the game to Ocie,” Walker said.

A bobbled snap and a run netted no yards for the Braves. On third down, Walker hit Hughes on a simple out pattern for the touchdown with 1:54 left to make it 32-31.

The Braves lined up for the kick but tried a trick snap for a two-point conversion but it failed.

All the Tigers (6-5, 5-4) needed now was a field goal to win.

Oliver, who was 17 of 21 for 148 yards, used his legs to move the Tigers in position. He had a 22-yard scramble to start the drive. A couple of short completions and a 13-yard draw by Carlos Simpson had JSU at the Alcorn 28 with 36 seconds left.

From there, the Tigers ran the ball to set up a kick in the middle of the field but that plan went awry when the Perri’s kick did the same.

&#8220They have a team with great receivers and they made the big plays,” Oliver said. &#8220As for us, this was it. It’s over with.”

Walker finished 15 of 25 for 219 yards and three TDs. His second TD toss went to Hughes for 20 yards to cap a three-score sequence in the game’s first six minutes that gave the Braves a 14-7 lead.

Jackson State came back with three straight touchdowns. Dorian Smith scored on a 2-yard run, Oliver had a 4-yard TD run and then tossed a 16-yard TD pass to Simpson with 10 seconds left in the half that made it 28-14 after Perri’s kick.