HUNTSVILLE, Ala. –
Tied 10-10 at halftime, the Alcorn State University football program put up 25 points in the second half to outscore Alabama A&M 35-26 on Saturday to spoil Homecoming for the Bulldogs at Louis Crews Stadium.
The biggest play of the game though came in the first half for the Braves (5-2, 3-1 SWAC) when junior quarterback Noah Johnson
ran for the longest touchdown in school history on a 92-yarder. It put Alcorn up 10-3 at the time.
The Braves tallied three touchdowns, a field goal and a safety in the second half. Touchdowns were scored by junior De'Shawn Waller
on a pair of one-yard rushes and senior Dayall Harris
on a 29-yard reception. The safety came after a blocked punt by junior Theron Bonds
was recovered by AAMU in its own end zone.
Overall, Johnson led the offense with 160 passing yards, 154 rushing yards and two total touchdowns. Waller, the back-to-back SWAC Newcomer of the Week honoree, stayed hot with 133 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
Defensively, sophomore Qwynnterrio Cole
led the Braves for the second straight week with nine tackles. He leads the team with 32 tackles on the season. Alcorn recorded a whopping eight sacks in the contest including a career-high 2.5 by senior Sterling Shippy
The Braves outgained the Bulldogs (3-4, 2-2 SWAC) 501-305 in total yards and 341-52 in rushing. AAMU's Aqeel Glass ended 20-for-35 with 203 yards and two touchdowns in the air.
Junior Corey McCullough
drained both of his field goal attempts including a 34 and 39-yarder. He also punted eight times for 268 yards.
AAMU had the ball first. On the first play of the game, the Braves swarmed Glass on a cornerback blitz and forced a fumble which was recovered by Alcorn. It resulted in a 34-yard field goal by McCullough which gave Alcorn an early 3-0 lead.
The Bulldogs started moving the ball after a 42-yard run by Trevon Walters. They got to the Alcorn 14-yard line, but a tackle for a loss by junior Terry Whittington
and a sack by junior Kwanzi Jackson
pushed them back to the 27-yard line. AAMU kicker Spencer Corey tied the game 3-3 with a 44-yard field goal at the four-minute mark.
AAMU was on the move in the second quarter after a 16-yard rush by Gary Quarles and a 15-yard face mask on the Braves. The Bulldogs got to the Alcorn 26 when they decided to go for it on 4th and 12 instead of kicking a 43-yard field goal into the wind; AAMU completed a nine-yard pass to Marceles Clash but it was stopped short of the first down.
On the ensuing possession, the Braves were backed up after a penalty and were situated with a 3rd-and-19 when Johnson took off for the longest TD run in school history, a 92-yarder. It came after strong blocking by his wide receivers down the field and put Alcorn ahead 10-3 with 6:22 left in the half.
The Bulldogs evened it 10-10 late in the half. The scoring play was a one-yard pass to Kendric Johnson. A pair of big penalties on Alcorn kept the drive alive for AAMU including a 15-yard face mask on third down and an unsportsmanlike conduct.
Midway through the third quarter, Alcorn was faced with a 3rd-and-8 when Johnson went deep and connected with junior Raidarious Anderson
for a huge 52-yard gain. A 13-yard carry by Waller put the ball at the one-yard line, and Waller finished it off with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Braves back up 17-10 at the 7:21 mark.
On the following kick return, a big hit by freshman Keyron Kinsler, bundled with a penalty on AAMU backed the Bulldogs up to their own five-yard line to start the drive. After a three-and-out, AAMU's punt was blocked by Bonds and recovered in the end zone by the Bulldogs for a safety. It increased Alcorn's lead to 19-10 with 6:24 remaining in the third.
After the safety, a couple hard runs of 10 and 11 yards, respectively, by Waller got the Braves to the AAMU 43. Alcorn then decided to go for it on 4th and 4 from the AAMU 27 when Johnson found senior Jaquaveon Boles
for the first down. The Braves upped their advantage to 26-10 on a 29-yard touchdown reception by Harris with 3:06 to go in the third.
Late in the quarter, AAMU moved into the red zone after a 54-yard reception by Nathaniel Dell. The Bulldogs quickly scored on a 19-yard screen pass to Brian Jenkins Jr. to cut into the deficit. AAMU decided to go for two and converted on a pass to Dell to make it a 26-18 game with 1:56 left in the third.
The Braves responded with a quick drive of their own. It started with an 18-yard run by Waller to the 50, and then catches by Harris and freshman Juan Anthony put the ball on the AAMU 30. Johnson nearly scored on the following play with a 29-yard run, but Waller finished it off with a one-yard plow into the end zone. The extra point hit the right post, but Alcorn led 32-18 heading into the fourth quarter.
Alcorn was on the move again early in the fourth. A couple of runs by Johnson put the Braves into AAMU territory, and a roughing the punter call kept the drive alive at the AAMU 29. Alcorn made it a three possession game, 35-18, after McCullough nailed a 39-yard field goal with 7:56 remaining.
AAMU scored on its final possession of the game. With 30 seconds left, Dylan Smith came in at quarterback and completed a 37-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Gardner. The Bulldogs converted the two-point conversion on another pass to Gardner which made it 35-26.
AAMU attempted on onside kick at the very end, but it was recovered by junior Solomon Muhammad
The Braves will return home next weekend when they host Grambling State at 2 p.m. in a Purple Out at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.
- Johnson's 92-yard touchdown run broke the previous school record of 88 yards set last season by De'Lance Turner
against Miles College. His 154 rushing yards today were a career-high, breaking his previous best of 139 against Mississippi Valley State earlier this season.
- The Braves defeated AAMU for the fifth consecutive year. Alcorn is now 13-2 against SWAC East Division opponents over the last four seasons.
- Alcorn entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation in total defense, giving up 242.0 yards per game. The Braves were slightly below average, surrendering 305 yards to the Bulldogs. However, Alcorn was also top-10 in the country in defensive third down conversion percentage (.278) and limited AAMU to a 1-for-11 (.091) mark.
- Alcorn's eight sacks were a season-high and eight different student-athletes recorded at least a half a sack.
- Cole matched a career-high in tackles with nine which he also did last week.
- The Braves entered the game leading the SWAC in both scoring (34.3 ppg) and rushing (285.8). They scored 35 points and rushed for 341 yards in the match.
- Alcorn went on the road to spoil a Homecoming for the second straight time after defeating Southern 20-3 previously.
- The Braves are ranked No. 4 in this week's HBCU Poll.
- Alcorn's captains were Boles, Shippy and senior Charles Hughes
. The Braves won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
Quoting Alcorn head coach Fred McNair
On being able to get the win today
"It was a tough one today. It means a lot for us to be able to come into a hostile environment like this and pull out a win. Our guys work their butts off every day in practice and they deserved this. They did what they had to do to come out with this victory."
On not being able to score with good field position in the first half
"That's what's so disappointing, when we're in the red zone that many times but couldn't come out with points. We kept hurting ourselves with penalties and negative plays, and we just have to be bigger than that. We came out slow and we've shown that we can play better than that. We've got to find a way as coaches to get these guys up and playing fast out of the gates."
On the offense in the second half
"We knew we couldn't play any worse offensively than we did in the first half. We obviously did a much better job in the second half. I told them at halftime just to relax and go out there and have fun. We needed to just get back to playing football the way we know how to."
On the defense
"We know the defense is going to play well every week. We just have to be more consistent offensively, especially in the red zone. We have to be able to execute and score points in the red zone. We'll have a big test next week with Grambling coming to town and it's going to be a tough fight. They always have a good ball club and we have to show up ready to play. I'm still looking for a full, complete-game out of our guys."
Quoting senior quarterback Noah Johnson
On how he felt out there today
"I felt great. I had to go back to the drawing board after last week. I had two options, and that was either be soft or come back and work hard. I stayed after practice all week with my receivers, and I wasn't going to let last week determine who I really am and how I can play."
On whether it was his ground game today that got him going
"Sometimes it's the ground game, but sometimes I get it going through the air. It was a slow start for us today, but I know it's just a matter of time before this offense puts it all together. I know it's coming."
On what the key is for this offense to be successful
"It all comes down to execution. If we come out and execute then we'll put up big numbers. We know we've got a great defense and football is a team sport for a reason."