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.