LAS CRUCES, N.M. –
A 28-point deficit for the Alcorn State University football program was cut down to just three points in the fourth quarter, but New Mexico State was able to hold off the upset-minded Braves 52-42 in a non-conference game Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
The Braves (7-3, 5-1 SWAC) trailed 35-7 in the second quarter when they came all the way back to make it a 38-35 game with 10:43 left in the fourth. Though, NMSU (3-7, Independent) responded with a big 68-yard touchdown drive on its Senior Day to halt Alcorn's momentum and end the threat.
Alcorn out-gained NMSU, an FBS opponent, 654-529 in total offense including a 338-133 edge in rushing.
Junior De'Shawn Waller
registered three touchdowns. He ran for 137 yards and two scores, and also caught a 12-yard touchdown.
Junior Noah Johnson
threw for 316 yards and four touchdowns and also ran for 138 yards. In addition to Waller, touchdown catches were pulled in by senior Dayall Harris
, junior Raidarious Anderson
and junior Chris Blair
. Harris hauled in a career-high 108 yards.
On the other side of the field, NMSU's Josh Adkins tallied 396 passing yards and four touchdowns. Johnathan Boone caught two touchdowns and 92 receiving yards.
Senior Leishaun Ealey
and sophomore Qwynnterrio Cole
wrapped-up nine tackles apiece to lead the Alcorn defense. Junior Taurence Wilson
notched a career-high eight tackles.
Leon McQuaker had an astounding 22 tackles for NMSU.
The Aggies quickly took a 7-0 lead after Jason Huntley returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.
After an Alcorn three-and-out, the Aggies extended their advantage to 14-0 after a 64-yard drive. It was capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Royce Caldwell at the 10:14 mark.
The Braves offense got it going on their second series after a pair of first down runs by senior P.J. Simmons
. On 3rd-and-11, Alcorn kept the drive going with a 23-yard pass over the middle to Blair to enter the red zone. The Braves scored on a 12-yard run by Waller up the middle to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 4:10 remaining. It ended a 13-play, 91-yard drive.
Early in the second quarter, the Braves turned the ball over on a fumble after a bad exchange from the quarterback to the running back, and the Aggies recovered at the Alcorn 40. NMSU cashed in on the turnover with a 23-yard touchdown pass to Boone to go back up 21-7 with 12:20 left.
The Aggies added-on with a 10-yard touchdown run by Huntley to make it a 28-7 game with 8:29 to go in the half. The big play of the series was a 43-yard pass to Royce in the center of the field. Late in the half, NMSU drove 90-yards to score on a 15-yard pass to Boone. The Aggies led 35-7.
On Alcorn's final possession of the half, the first play went for 10 yards on a catch by junior Tavares Johnson
. The Braves were at midfield when Johnson bombed it to Harris who caught it in stride for a 50-yard touchdown. It cut the deficit to 35-14 with 45 seconds left.
NMSU got down the field in a hurry at the very end of the half which included a 20-yard reception by Caldwell, but a 53-yard field goal attempt fell short as time expired.
In the third quarter, the Braves neared midfield after a 28-yard rush by Johnson up the middle. Catches by Anderson and Harris moved the ball into the red zone. A run by Waller to the right went for 13 yards and setup 1st-and-goal at the NMSU 5. Alcorn scored on a five-yard pass to Blair which trimmed NMSU's lead to 35-21 with 6:02 remaining.
The Aggies answered with a 29-yard field goal by Dylan Brown to change the score to 38-21 with 48 seconds left in the quarter. NMSU converted on three third downs on the drive, but the Braves were able to make a stop in the red zone after good coverage by freshman Calvontay Key
Early in the fourth, the Braves were on the move after a 15-yard rush by Johnson moved the ball into NMSU territory. A pass to Anderson was caught and looked to be stopped, but he put out a stiff arm to break a tackle and took it all the way for a 31-yard touchdown. It chipped into the deficit, 38-28 with 11:14 to go.
Alcorn got the ball back after a strip-sack was forced by junior Darrell Henderson
and recovered by senior Sterling Shippy
at the NMSU 34. On the next play, Johnson kept it himself to the NMSU 17 for a first down. Waller followed with a 17-yard touchdown run to the left to make it a 38-35 game with 10:43 left.
NMSU answered with a key 68-yard drive to stay in front 45-35 with 7:37 remaining. The Braves had a chance to hold them to a field goal, but on third down at the 9-yard line Huntley was able to turn the corner to the left for the score.
A 48-yard keeper by Johnson to the left setup the Braves at the NMSU 27. Though, after they got backed up on a holding penalty, they decided to go for it on 4th-and-20; Johnson's pass intended for Tavares Johnson
The Aggies responded with a 60-yard screen pass to Huntley as he caught it to right with blockers in front of him, and ran it across the field to the left side of the end zone. It put NMSU ahead 52-35 at the 3:52 mark.
Alcorn scored on its final drive to make it 52-42 with 26 seconds left. The big plays were a 21-yard catch by Harris and a 16-yard grab by sophomore LeCharles Pringle
. The scoring play was a 12-yard reception by Waller.
The Braves will be off next weekend. They return to the field on Saturday, Nov. 17 when they host Jackson State on Senior Day at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.
- The 42 points were the most Alcorn scored against an FBS opponent since 1994 when it beat Troy 47-44.
- Saturday was just the second-ever meeting between Alcorn and NMSU. The Aggies took the first match-up 45-10 in 2008.
- Alcorn entered the game leading the SWAC in scoring (33.2 ppg), total offense (458.6 ypg) and rushing (272.6 ypg). They will improve on all three tallies.
- Junior Brelion Hollis
, the reigning SWAC Defensive Player of the Week winner, submitted five tackles and one for a loss.
- The 50-yard reception by Harris was a career-long. His previous long was 44 yards at Prairie View A&M. He also topped his career-high in receiving yards as his previous best was 81 yards at PVAMU.
- Nine different wide receivers caught a pass for the Braves including tight ends Kyontez Everett
and Jaquaveon Boles
- Wilson's eight tackles topped his previous career-high of seven set at PVAMU.
- The all-time school record for total yards in a game is 756 set in 1994 against Grambling State.
- The Braves are ranked No. 3 in this week's HBCU Poll and are receiving 12 votes in the FCS Coaches Poll.
- Alcorn's captains were Blair, junior Corey McCullough
and Shippy. NMSU won the coin toss and elected to receive.
Quoting Alcorn head coach Fred McNair
"We didn't play as well as I thought we could play in the first half. Though, we came back and really competed in the second. I am proud of the team for the way we came back the way we did. Our guys were relentless out there and they really fought. We showed a lot of character today and our guys played with a lot of pride. I am very proud of them."
On being able to come back to make it a three-point game
"When you fall behind like that against an FBS team, it would have been easy for us to have just folded. Though, our guys showed no signs of quitting. We executed really well in the second half and fought hard to get the deficit down like that in the fourth quarter. We just have to continue to play the way we did in the second half, and our guys were up to the challenge today."
On posting over 600 yards of total offense
"That's what they are capable of doing. If we would have executed in the first half the way we did in the second it would have been even higher. Coach [Ryan] Stanchek and the coaches did a great job of putting the game plan together, and I'm just so proud of the way we accumulated those yards and ran the ball. We did what it took to score points."
On what they will focus on next week during the bye week
"We're going to hit the film room and take a look at all the things we can improve on. We've played a tough schedule without a bye week yet so it will be good for us to sit down and focus on what we've been doing. We just have to play good, fundamental football and get this team better."
Quoting junior quarterback Noah Johnson
"This was a game we should have won today. We had some opportunities that we left on the field, but I like the way we fought as a team. We tried to shock the world today and came up short, but we're going to keep fighting."
On how the offense was able to move the ball the way it did
"We just executed the game plan. We all have faith in one another and trust that everyone is going to do their jobs. The offensive line blocked their butts off, and everyone believed that we should win. We came close to pulling this game off."
On whether the plan was to spread the ball around today
"That's always the plan. Everybody fought hard today and it didn't matter who was in the game. It didn't matter who was getting the ball, we were all trying to get the job done."