Defenses shine in Alcorn spring game

Published 12:57 am Sunday, April 24, 2016

By Taylor Denman

The Natchez Democrat

LORMAN — Alcorn State fans got their first look at the football program under new head coach Fred McNair Saturday.

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The annual Purple and Gold spring game ended in a 6-6 tie that was dominated by the Braves’ defense.

The game’s only two touchdowns came in the fourth quarter. Approaching the 12-minute mark, quarterback Lenorris Footman connected with receiver Ray Anderson for a 35-yard strike down the middle of the field. Nearing the seven-minute mark, backup quarterback Deundre Pickett-White found receiver Jalen Walker for a 3-yard touchdown pass.

“It’s the first very competitive situation the guys have been in to this point,” McNair said. “I guess the jitters got to them a bit.”

Footman, who started the final six games of the 2015 season and led the Braves to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship, completed 11 of 24 passes for 113 yards. Meanwhile, second-stringer Pickett-White completed 21 of 35 passes for 151 yards. McNair said he thought the quarterbacks passed well and that most of the incompletions were the result of dropped passes early in the game.

“All during the practice week, they did a great job of catching the ball, but I guess that didn’t translate (Saturday),” McNair said.

The Alcorn defense, which had the second lowest opponent passing efficiency rating in the country last season, continued its dominant streak. The Purple and Gold defenses combined for 13 sacks.

Additionally, the defense forced three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception on a hail mary pass by Footman on the final play of the game.

McNair highlighted the defensive secondary for an exceptional day, crediting first-year defensive coordinator Cedric Thomas for its progress to this point.

“The defense did a great job, and that’s what we’re looking for in our secondary,” McNair said. “Coach Thomas is doing a phenomenal job of bringing pressure in the situations it’s needed. I’d hate to be the team that plays against them.”

McNair said he’ll evaluate his young offensive line, which lost several players to graduation. McNair said the coaching staff will get together Monday to examine the film from Saturday’s game.

“Mainly we’ll see some of the things we can correct as far as tempo, lining up and not being caught offsides,” he said. “Once that starts happening in a quick way, we’ll get better.”

Perhaps the biggest Achilles’ heel to the Alcorn offense on Saturday was its inability to convert on third down. The Gold offense, captained by Footman, converted just two of its 11 third down tries. The Purple team was 2-for-12

McNair said the troubles on third down can be traced back to the dropped passes.

“You have to be able to move the chains on third down,” McNair said. ”We really have to correct that. I think we will, but these receivers have to catch the ball.”

The Gold team finished with 148 yards of offense, while the Purple put up 215 yards.

Arron Baker, who played for the Purple team, led all rushers with 37 yards. Silas Spearman churned out 21 yards for the Gold.