Braves finish season with 14-10 win over Jackson State

Published 12:39 am Sunday, November 29, 2015

JACKSON — Alcorn State’s high-powered offensive machine sputtered and wheezed like a dying old Ford on Saturday. It cranked up just long enough to get across the finish line and past Jackson State, and get on the road to Houston.

Arron Baker’s 1-yard touchdown run gave the Braves the lead for good — and was the only offensive touchdown for either team — as they beat their archrival 14-10 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Alcorn rushed for 198 yards but only had 89 through the air, committed four turnovers, and missed three short field goals. Alcorn had been averaging 39.3 points per game, but scored less than 20 against a SWAC opponent for just the second time in the past three seasons.

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“It wasn’t really much of them. It was mostly us,” Alcorn quarterback Lenorris Footman said. “We had alignment, assignment, a few mental busts. It’s an ugly win, but a win.”

The good news for the Braves (8-3, 7-2 SWAC) is they managed to eke out a win and they’ll have a chance to play for another. They’ll face Grambling in the SWAC championship game next Saturday in Houston.

That, and beating Jackson State (3-8, 3-6), provided some solace to an otherwise lackluster day. Alcorn has won two of the last three meetings with the Tigers.

“It’s always good to be there,” Alcorn coach Jay Hopson said of the championship game, “but we certainly have unfinished business there so we’ve got to be ready to play.”

While last year’s game in Lorman was a shootout, this one was dominated by defense. It was the lowest-scoring game in the series since Alcorn’s 14-7 win in 2009.

Jackson State took an early lead when Javancy Jones sacked Footman and knocked the ball loose on Alcorn’s first possession. Teddrick Terrell scooped it up and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead that lasted 13 seconds.

Alcorn’s Marquis Warford returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards to tie it.

“We worked it all week. It was something new that we designed. It was a one-on-one block, and we knew once I got around everybody I was going to score,” Warford said. “That gave us a big momentum boost.”

Jones’ sack was the start of a long, frustrating day for the Braves’ offense.

They lost three fumbles, had a touchdown negated by a holding penalty and missed field goals of 26, 24 and 37 yards. Two of the missed field goals came after they had first-and-goal.

Footman was 7-of-24 passing for 89 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Over his last two games, he’s completed just 9 of 36 passes.

“When they first pulled up, they were one-dimensional. We knew they couldn’t throw the ball, to be honest,” said Jones, who finished with 16 total tackles, 3 ½ tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. “Then their O-linemen had a tough time blocking us. Every time he dropped back, he never dropped back and just sat in the pocket. We made sure we kept him on the run, made sure he was looking out for us, so he had to do something with the ball quick.”

Footman did run for 76 yards and Darryan Ragsdale had 101. Most of Ragsdale’s total came in the second half, when Alcorn moved the football but struggled to punch it in the end zone.

After a 15-play drive to start the second half ended with a missed field goal, Alcorn got the ball back on an interception by Eric Foster and finally finished one off. Ragsdale broke off runs of 10 and 15 yards on the first two plays, then an 18-yard pass from Footman to Warford moved the ball inside the 10.

On third-and-goal from the 1, Baker plunged through the line for the go-ahead touchdown and a 14-10 lead with 1:59 left in the third quarter.

“We just came out a little slow, but we picked it up and came out with a win,” Footman said.

From there, Alcorn’s defense stood tall.

Jackson State had one first down on its next three possessions and turned it over on downs after moving into Alcorn territory on its final drive.

Jackson State finished the game with 221 yards of total offense and committed two turnovers. It was only inside the red zone once.

Alcorn has allowed a total of 33 points in its last three games.

“I thought we’ve played lights out the last two weeks. I thought they played physical. They played a heck of a ballgame,” Hopson said. “The seven points was a fumble return, so really they gave up three points. That’s a good day on defense.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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