Alcorn finishes strong|College football

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 23, 2009

JACKSON — Alcorn State coach Earnest Collins expects Saturday’s 14-7 win over Jackson State in the Capital City Classic to do big things for his program.

The win capped Collins’ first season with the Braves at 3-6. They had a shot to win the SWAC’s Eastern Division, but Alabama A&M held on to beat Mississippi Valley State 17-12 and will represent the East against Prairie View in the SWAC title game.

Collins said he was looking forward to next season. That’s more than his two predecessors could do after the Classic. In 2007, Dr. Johnny Thomas was fired a day after the Braves lost to the Tigers. Last year, Ernest T. Jones was not brought back after one season even though a loss to Jackson State had nothing to do with his departure.

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“This is big. Our work toward 2010 started today,” Collins said. “Our defense, with the exception of one series, pitched a shutout. We played hard all game and we prepared well. That’s why we want to move this toward 2010.”

The Braves’ defense held JSU to minus-12 yards rushing. Collins said it was due to finally having a healthy team.

“It was a challenge for us the last two weeks going into this game because we had lost some players. But this week, we got our guys healthy and they were able to get to the quarterback,” Collins said.

The Braves also had an effective offensive game. Quarterback Tim Buckley threw two long touchdown passes in the first six minutes for a 14-0 lead. Alcorn then hammered JSU in the second half behind freshman running back Arnold Walker, who had 99 yards on 28 carries and was named the Classic’s Offensive MVP.

“Because we had the lead and it started to rain, it made us run the ball more than we expected to,” Buckley said. “I wanted to go out with a bang. It’s the best feeling.”

Buckley’s departure will be Collins’ biggest offseason vacancy to fill. The former Madison Central star was a two-year starter and ranked third in the SWAC in passing yards per game this season.

“We need depth on this football team. That will be the goal of our recruiting,” Collins said. “We saw how having some good backs made Arnold Walker come around in the second half of the year. It will be hard to replace an athlete like Tim Buckley. We just have to look at the quarterbacks we have returning and then add to it.”

JSU, meanwhile, faces an uncertain future. It had won two straight East Division titles, but went 3-7 this year.

“This was a disappointing season to say the least. It’s been a long, long time since I had a year like this. I’m going to need some time to reflect on some things. We’ve got a lot of young talent, because we didn’t go out and recruit the jucos last year,” JSU coach Rick Comegy said.