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Alcorn State declared victory after their wild 20-17 come-from-behind home victory against Southern Saturday.

Alcorn State’s aspirations for the SWAC championship all but evaporated a long time ago. But the Braves can declare themselves Louisiana State champions after their wild 20-17 come-from-behind home victory against Southern Saturday.

After losing 14-0 third quarter-lead, the Braves scored the winning touchdown on backup Jordan Payne’s one-yard quarterback sneak with 38 seconds left in the game.

The win, coupled with their season-opening 16-15 victory against Grambling State, marked the first time in recent memory that Alcorn (2-4, 2-2 SWAC) has beaten the two Louisiana schools in the same season. It also allowed the Braves to match their win total for last season.

“We talked about that before the game,’’ first-year Alcorn coach Jay Hopson said. “We’ve had a tough schedule. To get these two wins is something we’re really excited about and proud to have.’’

To say that the victory didn’t come easy for Alcorn, which used four quarterbacks in the game, is a gross understatement even though the Braves dominated most of the contest. They held Southern to just 10 first downs and 220 total yards. They built a 14-0 lead on the strength of Payne’s two-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 38-yard scoring strike from John Gibbs, the starting signal-caller, to Joe Price with 4:16 left in the third period.

Southern, which entered the contest with a two-game winning streak, climbed back into the game on its next possession. On the first play from scrimmage following Price’s score, Jaguars quarterback Dray Joseph and Mike Berry connected on a75-yard touchdown. That made the score 14-6 after Alcorn blocked the extra point attempt.

Things turned wild on the final play of the third quarter, an Alcorn punt that Tollette George boomed 40 yards to midfield from his 10-yard line. Virgil Williams returned the kick 49 yards to Alcorn’s one, where he fumbled. D’Andre Woodland recovered the ball for a touchdown, and the Jaguars tied the score with a pass from Joseph to tight end Raushaun Allen for a two-point conversion.

However, television replays showed the Williams’ elbow appeared to touch the ground, which would have ended the play, and that the ball was out of bounds when Woodland recovered it, which would have resulted in a touchback, not a touchdown.

Terrance Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown that would have given Alcorn the lead, but the play was nullified by a penalty and the Braves got the ball at their 22.

Southern took a 17-14 lead on Greg Pittman’s 33-yard field goal – the first make of his college career – with 10:52 left in the game and appeared to be on its way to its second consecutive comeback victory. But it was not to be. Alcorn got the ball with 6:42 to play and mounted what proved to be the winning drive, which covered 66 yards and took 14 plays. Along the way, the Braves had two third down conversions and fullback Alondrea Young ran for 14 yards on a faked punt on fourth-and-12 from Alcorn’s 32.

“I was going to do it the series before, but we got sacked for 15-yard loss,’’ Hopson said. “The opportunity presented itself, and I decided to go for it.’’

Payne made the decision payoff when he scored his second touchdown of the game.

“I couldn’t be prouder,’’ Hopson said. “We had some adversity in the third and fourth quarters. We kept fighting. We kept plugging and fighting. That’s what I’m proud of.’’

Key Games
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 34, Jackson State 24: The Golden Lions (4-2, 3-1 SWAC) withstood an overpowering ground attack and held on for a home victory that kept them atop the SWAC West Division. Jackson State (2-4, 2-2 SWAC) had three players rush for 100 or more yards – Tommy Gooden (104), Rakeem Sims (101) and Clayton Moore (100) – while gaining 319 yards on the ground. The Tigers had 420 yards total offense to 293 for Arkansas-Pine Bluff. However, Jackson State committed four costly turnovers. Dennis Jenkins rushed for 154 yards for the Golden Lions in a game in which neither team’s passing game was effective because of heavy rain. The contest was delayed for 40 minutes because of lightning. Jackson State had 101 yards passing; Arkansas-Pine Bluff had 30. The loss puts Jackson State in a deep hole in the SWAC East. Undefeated Alabama A&M leads the division. Alabama State is second with a 3-1 conference record. Jackson State has games remaining against both.

Delaware State 20, Norfolk State 17: The Hornets (2-3, 1-1 MEAC) forced four turnovers, including a last-second interception deep in their territory, to hand the Spartans (2-4, 0-3 MEAC) their fourth consecutive loss and keep the defending MEAC champions winless in the conference.

Howard 17, Florida A&M 10: The established themselves as a legitimate contender for the MEAC championship with a home victory in battle of conference unbeatens. The Bison (4-1, 3-0 MEAC) held Florida A&M (2-4, 2-1 MEAC) to 37 yards rushing. Senior linebacker Keith Pough was the defensive star for the Bison. He had 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Pough set the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) career record for tackles for losses with 66.

N. C.  Central 40, S. C. State 10: The Eagles forced five fumbles as they humbled the Bulldogs in the Circle City Classic at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. South Carolina State (2-4, 1-2 MEAC) dominated the game statistically, grinding out 209 yards on the ground and outgaining the Eagles in total yards 333-235. However, the Bulldogs were unable to overcome three interception and two fumbles. North Carolina Central (3-2, 2-0 MEAC) is one of four teams that haven’t lost an MEAC game. The others are Bethune-Cookman (3-0), Howard (3-0) and Morgan State (2-0).

Prairie View A&M 31, Grambling State 14: The Panthers won their first game  of the season and kept the G-Men winless with a victory in the State Fair Classic in at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The win for the Panthers (1-5, 1-3 SWAC) gave them back-to-back victories against Grambling (0-5, 0-4 SWAC) for the first time since 1963-64.

Tuskegee 21, Morehouse 14: The Golden Tigers road a strong effort from their defensive unit to a victory in the 77th Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic in Columbus, Ga., that extended their winning streak to four consecutive games. The Golden Tigers (4-1, 3-0 SIAC) forced five turnovers and twice stopped the Maroon Tigers inside the five-yard line. Tuskegee’s offense controlled the clock with its ground game, led by University of Missouri transfer running back Derrick Washington, who gained 84 yards on 20 carries. The Golden Tigers had possession of the ball for 13:17 of the fourth quarter.

Other Games
CIAA
Bowie State 35, Chowan 31
Saint Augustine’s 32, Livingstone 27
Shaw 45, Fayetteville State 28
Virginia State 28, Elizabeth City State 17
Virginia Union 61, Lincoln (PA) 13
Winston-Salem State 63, Johnson C. Smith 7

MEAC
Bethune-Cookman 28, North Carolina A&T 12
Morgan State 45, Savannah State 6

SIAC
Albany State 36, Lane 14
Fort Valley State 36, Kentucky State 6
Miles 28, Clark Atlanta 7
Stillman 24, Benedict 19

SWAC
Alabama A&M 35, Miss Valley State 0
Alabama State 45, Texas Southern 0

INDEPENDENTS
Concordia-Selma 20, Virginia University of Lynchburg 7
Kutztown 56, Cheyney 7
Langston 40, Wayland Baptist 0
Missouri S&T 27, Central State 21
Panhandle State 30, Texas College 9
Tennessee State 23, Eastern Kentucky 20
Washburn 51, Lincoln (MO) 18 – Final
West Liberty 52, West Virginia State 19

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