Braves aim to correct unforced mistakes

Published 11:14 am Friday, October 5, 2012

LORMAN — A good part of Alcorn State’s preparation for Saturday’s game against Southern University will be on special teams.

Last week against Alabama State, the Braves (1-4, 1-2 Southwestern Athletic Conference) could not get off three punts and had a fumble on a kickoff return. One of the punts was blocked and recovered in the end zone, while two other punt snaps were dropped, putting Alabama State in business deep in Alcorn territory. There also was an interception returned for another score. Alabama State took advantage in a 54-14 win.

Alcorn coach Jay Hopson said in this week’s SWAC teleconference that his team gave one away.

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“It was a comedy of errors. They had to go 24 yards in total to score 42 points,” Hopson said. “We had essentially three blocked punts, two coming when we just dropped the snap, and a fumbled kickoff return. We have to hold onto the football.”

Southern (2-2, 1-1) comes into Saturday’s SWAC contest having won its last two games, including a 21-14 win over Florida A&M last week. The Jaguars started 0-2 — including a 6-0 loss at home to Mississippi Valley State — and head coach Stump Mitchell was replaced by defensive coordinator Dawson Odums, who is 2-0.

None of that really matters to Hopson.

“We worried about catching the ball,” he said. “We have to worry about us. We have to shore up our special teams and give ourselves a chance to win a game. “

One positive Hopson saw was the play of his defense. Alabama State had only two sustained scoring drives in the game.

“We played pretty well on defense and had only one missed assignment and that allowed the (Isaiah) Crowell touchdown,” Hopson said. “They had two good drives and the other 42 points were handed to them. That’s never happened to me before in all my years of football.”

This week, Alcorn’s defense will be tested by Southern quarterback Dray Joseph. He has completed 67 of 108 passes for 752 yards and six touchdowns. Wide receiver Lee Doss is his top target, with 24 receptions for 242 yards.

Southern has struggled to run the ball, averaging only 61.2 yards per game.

Alcorn showed some life on offense with backup quarterback John Gibbs. The junior led the Braves on a late scoring drive in the second quarter and hit Joe Price for a 41-yard TD pass.

“John gave us some momentum, so we left him in there,” Hopson said.

Gibbs and regular starter Darius Smith have combined to throw for 547 yards. The running game is still an issue, as Gibbs is the second leading rusher at just 157 yards. Running back Arnold Walker leads the Braves with 163 yards and one TD.