Saturday in the SWAC was particularly big for Bethune-Cookman and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which scored their first conference victories with three weeks to play.
The Wildcats got their first-ever SWAC win by taking down 2019 champion Alcorn State, 35-31, and UAPB knocked off Grambling, 33-26 in Pine Bluff.
“It was probably the most complete game we played all year,” BC coach Terry Sims said. “Offense, defense and special teams came together at some point and did their part. The guys did what they were coached to do, not trying to do too much and made the plays they were supposed to make.”
The Wildcats trailed most of the game but took the lead for good on a 3-yard run by LaDerrien Wilson with 12:27 left. Shannon Patrick passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns, including a 33-yarder to Kenmari Averett after Alcorn State had taken a 31-21 lead. Averett caught five passes for 92 yards and two scores.
Alcorn quarterback Felix Harper threw for 300 yards and one TD as the Braves outgained BC, 476-338. But the Wildcats kept him out of the end zone in the fourth quarter and forced three turnovers.
“Pray,” Sims joked of his strategy to slow Harper down. “I’ve been watching Felix since he was in high school. He’s an exceptional talent, maybe a better person than a football player. But he is scary as a football player. We had to keep a spy on him all night.
“It shows what this program and team are about: we never quit,” Sims said. “I was happy for this team to see their hard work paid off. They always believed they could win and have played at times well enough to win but just didn’t get it. On Saturday they did.”
Lions blow past Tigers
Defense-oriented Grambling allowed the most points in a SWAC game this season as Skyler Perry bounced back from a subpar season with 309 yards rushing and passing combined and four touchdowns. UAPB coach Doc Gamble also resorted to some roster juggling to help his beleaguered defense
“It’s always good to beat Grambling and it helped stop the bleeding,” Gamble said. “it was a totally different energy level for our team. Nobody went into the tank.
“We had only one starter left in the secondary so we checked the roster to see if we had anyone that had experience playing defensive back in high school. We moved some wide receivers to the secondary and watered down the coverages. We used the ‘cat’ defense … you got that cat and I got that cat. We also finally had Tyrin Ralph back. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet but just having him on the field was big for our team.”
The Tigers’ offensive woes continued as Grambling managed only 296 yards and still do not have 300 yards or more in a conference game. Grambling has gone to the No. 3 and 4 options at quarterback with John-Paul Pierce and Aldon Clark after Noah Bodden and Elijah Walker have handled the job most of the season.
“We’ve struggled trying to find consistency at that position,” coach Broderick Fobbs said. “You can’t hide that position. The quarterback is the key to this entire thing.
Casem to be honored
Former Southern coach and athletic director Marino Casem will be honored Thursday night at 7 p.m. as part of Alcorn State’s celebration of 100 years of football. The celebration will be held in the school’s Bristow Dining Hall on campus.
Casem first made his mark at Alcorn where he served 22 years as head coach, winning seven SWAC titles and four Black College National Championships. He also served as athletic director at Alcorn.
Casem moved on to Southern in 1986 and served 13 years as athletic director and three as head football coach. He died at age 85 on April 25, 2020, in Baton Rouge.
Players of the Week
Alabama A&M WR Dee Anderson, UAPB QB Skyler Perry and Andre Fuller, FAMU PK Jose Romo-Martinez and Jackson State QB Shedeur Sanders won SWAC Player of the Week honors.
Anderson caught seven balls for 122 yards and three TDs in a 42-14 win over MVSU to share the offensive honor with Perry, who passed for 163 yards and two scores and rushed for 146 yards and two TDs in a 33-26 win over Grambling.
Romo-Martinez kicked three field goals and three PATs in the victory against Southern for the special teams honor while Sanders threw for 305 yards and three TDs in a 41-21 win vs. TSU.
Alabama A&M at Texas Southern; Bethune-Cookman at Grambling; Jackson State at Southern; Alabama State at Mississippi Valley State; Florida A&M at Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Alcorn State at Prairie View.
Bethune-Cookman 35, Alcorn State 31; Prairie View 24, Alabama State 20; Jackson State 41, Texas Southern 21; Alabama A&M 42, Mississippi Valley State 14; Arkansas-Pine Bluff 33, Grambling 26; Florida A&M 29, Southern 17