Alcorn State ready for home opener

Published 11:20 am Friday, September 14, 2012

Alcorn State football fans will finally get to see their team and new coach Jay Hopson play on the Reservation Saturday.

The Braves make their 2012 home debut against Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a Southwestern Athletic Conference game at Spinks/Casem Stadium in Lorman. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

Alcorn (1-1, 1-0 SWAC) split its first two games, beating Grambling 22-21 in the Port City Classic in Shreveport before losing last week to Football Championship Sub-Division power James Madison 42-3.

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Hopson said it will be good for his team to play in front of a friendly crowd.

“We know it’s a big one,” Hopson said. “Our fans will be excited.”

Despite the loss at James Madison, Hopson said his team showed flashes of improvement from the season opener.

“Obviously, when we came into the locker room at halftime, we were down (28-0) but I challenged our team to win the second half,” Hopson said. “For the most part, we did. It was 7-3 until they hit us deep on a busted coverage. We competed hard against a team that beat Virginia Tech last year and one that is on its way to competing for a national championship. That said, I saw some good things from us in the second half. I was glad to see us progress.”

Alcorn State is led by junior quarterback Darius Smith. In two games, he has completed 34 of 65 passes for 254 yards. He’s also the team’s second-leading rusher with 85 yards and one touchdown.

“Darius played well,” Hopson said. “I also thought our defense executed better in the second half, especially against a team that was that good. We just have to put it behind us.”

Running back Arnold Walker leads the Braves’ ground game with 100 rushing yards and one TD. Tavoris Doss is the team’s leading receiver with 10 catches for 57 yards.

Alcorn’s defense is led by linebacker Brandon Thompson with 81⁄2 tackles, including two for loss, and an interception. Defensive ends Jarvis Turner and Terrance Green have combined for 15 tackles and three sacks.

Alcorn’s defense will have to contend with UAPB quarterback Benjamin Anderson. He has completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 357 yards. He’s also rushed for 89 yards, but for UAPB coach Monte Coleman, that’s not a good thing.

“We should be running the football better,” Coleman said. “Having your quarterback as the second-leading rusher is not a good stat.”

The Lions (1-1, 0-1) won their opener over Langston, 17-14, but lost 14-10 to league foe Alabama A&M last week in Pine Bluff.

“We did some good things statistically, but the outcome was not very pleasing to me,” Coleman said. “We need this game (with Alcorn) desperately. They have a well-coached team. We will need to cut down on our mistakes.”