Lenorris Footman sparks Alcorn State to SWAC title _lowres

Alcorn State quarterback Lenorris Footman (17) escapes the tackle of Grambling State defensive back Jameel Jackson (33) in the third quarter of the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship college football game, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in Houston. Alcorn State won the game 49-21. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON — One hour before kickoff of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game, Alcorn State had not announced who would be starting at quarterback.

Following a 49-21 rout of Grambling, the Braves can feel confident that they have two good choices going forward.

When healthy, the Braves have played 2014 SWAC co-Offensive Player of the Year John Gibbs Jr.

With Gibbs only at 85-90 percent following a high ankle sprain from earlier in the season, the Braves went with sophomore Lenorris Footman, who put on a show.

Footman passed for 202 yards and three touchdowns, while running for another 101 yards and a fourth score.

“Lenorris is a young man that we knew was a great football player. He just needed his opportunity,” Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson said.

“We have two outstanding quarterbacks. Usually there is a big drop off from 1 to 2, but not with them.”

Footman led the Braves offense to six touchdowns and 613 yards of total offense against a Grambling team that was giving up only 311 yards a game coming in.

Footman credited Gibbs for much of his success.

“He is a great leader, and I just try to follow his example and his lead,” Footman said. “He tells me what I need to do and what adjustments I need to make.”

Footman came in for an injured Gibbs on Oct. 31 against Southern and proceeded to rush for a quarterback record 274 yards. Footman has started the past six games and has led the team to five victories.

Gibbs, who said he is getting healthier each week, has stayed heavily involved in the offense, signaling in plays, getting in every sideline huddle and is the first on the field to congratulate Footman.

“Lenorris came out and played a heck of a game,” Gibbs said. “He did what he was asked to do, and that is what happens when you are the next man up.

“Day in and day out, we watch film together, and I try to help him out on the sideline.”

In a fitting tribute, Hopson put Gibbs in the game for the Braves’ final drive, letting the Houston native hand the ball off to run out the clock on the back-to-back championship.

“John means so much to our program,” Hopson said. “He has been an impact player for us. You don’t get to this stage without players that make big plays like that. I was glad to get him in there.”

As for who will start in two weeks for the Celebration Bowl against North Carolina A&T, Hopson wasn’t about to show his cards.

“John is getting healthier every week and they are both ready to play,” Hopson said. “The good news for us is we have two great quarterbacks.”