It took just less than 11 minutes before Alcorn State dug itself into an enormous hole, en route to a 30-14 defeat against Southern University on Saturday at A.W. Mumford Stadium.
On Alcorn’s first three drives, the Braves had three three-and-outs. It was a different story for SU. The Jaguars converted their first three drives into touchdowns.
J.P. Douglas scrambled 50 yards for the Jaguars’ first score, followed by his touchdown passes to Mike Berry from 59 yards out and a 25-yard toss to LaQuinton Evans.
On all three scores, the Braves made mistakes defensively that could have been avoided. First, it was missed tackles against Douglas, then broken coverage against Berry and tangled feet by cornerback Jamison Knox on Evans down the sideline.
“With a young team you’re going to make mistakes,” Alcorn defensive coordinator Michael Roach said. “We are going through growing pains right now, and you’ve got to have a stomach for it.”
The Braves defense allowed 179 yards rushing, with 134 coming from Southern running back Sylvester Nzekwe. Nzekwe had multiple long runs on the Alcorn defense, including a 58-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Southern gashed Alcorn for 426 yards, the second-highest total the Braves have given up all season.
“It’s all about winning the war in the trenches,” Alcorn coach Melvin Spears said. “We didn’t do anything up front, therefore, we struggled a little bit.”
Offensively, it wasn’t a prettier picture for Spears and his team.
The Braves sustained just one drive more than six plays. On that drive, Alcorn started with the ball on its 20-yard line, and led by running back Arnold Walker, drove down into the Jaguars red zone.
However, kicker Arturo Tamayo missed a 31-yard field goal attempt wide right. The missed field goal was just one of the many Alcorn miscues.
In the second quarter, Tamayo had a snap sail over his head. Southern took over at Alcorn’s 18-yard line and came away with three points on a 36-yard field goal from Manuel Canto.
“We just got to go back to the drawing board and get ready to play,” Spears said. “You just keep working every single day. You’ve got to remember these are 18, 19-year-olds that are trying to do the right thing. We are going to keep working.”
Alcorn’s offense gained 219 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per play. Quarterback Darius Smith completed 36 percent of his passes, and Alcorn had more penalty yards (67) than rushing (53).
Alcorn’s special teams accounted for its only points. Terrance Lewis scored on an 85-yard kickoff return, and linebacker Robert Gainwell blocked a punt and recovered the fumble before scampering 30 yards for the score.
With the loss, Alcorn drops to 2-5, 1-5 in the SWAC. Its wins came against Mississippi Valley and Concordia, which have a combined 3-14 record.
“You have to motivate the guys, and that’s what we do,” Roach said.
“The biggest thing with a young defense is that you have to be ready for the inconsistency. We were just inconsistent tonight.”