Easier path lies ahead for Alcorn

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, October 2, 2012

LORMAN — Alcorn State is finished with the toughest part of the schedule. The second half of the season, which begins Saturday when Southern visits Lorman, could be more kind to the Braves’ fortunes.

At least, that’s what Jay Hopson is hoping for.

The Braves (1-4, 1-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) completed the first half of the season with last Saturday’s crushing 54-14 loss to Alabama State. Three miscues on punts, four lost fumbles and an interception return for a score led to six Alabama State touchdowns.

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“I knew our first five games were probably our toughest, but with that said, I think they will all be tough for us this year,” Hopson, Alcorn’s first-year head coach, said after his Braves endured the bitter homecoming loss played in steady rain. “When you look at it, you know Arkansas State and James Madison are going to be hard for us to compete. Then we have Grambling State, who won the league last year. Arkansas Pine-Bluff, who I feel will likely win it all this season; and Alabama State, who was picked to win the Eastern Division.”

Alcorn won once during its tough opening stretch, against Grambling in the season opener. More victories seem likely in the second half of the season.

Of Alcorn’s six remaining opponents, only undefeated Alabama A&M (5-0) — who Alcorn plays on the road next week — has a winning record. The other five opponents have a combined record of 6-17. Southern is 2-2.

Alcorn State wide receiver Marti Shelby, a Clinton native, said the Braves must be totally focused to beat anybody.

“What is needed is that we have to be locked in more,” Shelby said. “Coach Hopson said that adversity would strike us this season and we would get what we deserved. They’re right.”

Senior linebacker Donovan Hill, who recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for one of the Braves’ scores, remains motivated.

“I don’t get down,” Hill said. “Even when we beat Grambling, we made a lot of mistakes in that game. Today, we didn’t execute. It was all turnovers and special teams. The loss bothers you, but that’s part of football.”

Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said he’s been where the Braves are at this point in the season.

“I know that, in your first year, it’s all about changing the players’ mindset,” Barlow said. “Coach Hopson can turn it around. He’s playing a lot of young guys.”