Alabama State’s defense and special teams combined to score three touchdowns in the game, while the offense was able to take advantage of additional Alcorn State special teams issues as Alabama State scored the most points since losing 64-58 in triple overtime to Tuskegee on Turkey Day 2007.
“That was big,” head coach Reggie Barlow said of his team being able to score points on offense, defense and special teams. “We talked about wanting to score a lot of touchdowns, and you won’t always be able to do that offensively or defensively. You have to find a way to run a punt back or block a punt on special teams, and our guys were able to do that.
Alabama State (3-2 overall, 3-1 Southwestern Athletic Conference) scored three first-quarter touchdowns, including two in a 20-second span. A bobbled punt snap by Alcorn gave the Hornets’ possession at the Braves’ 17-yard line. Three plays later, Greg Jenkins fired a 19-yard touchdown pass to T.C. McWilliams in the back of the end zone to take a 7-0 lead with 7:03 to play in the opening period.
On the next play from scrimmage, Brandon Roberts forced a fumble at the Alcorn State nine-yard line that trickled into the end zone. Winton Steward recovered for a touchdown to extend the Hornets’ lead to 14-0.
Alabama State’s defense extended the lead late in the first quarter. Leland Baker deflected a pass that was picked off by teammate DeAndre Rashada, who returned it 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Hornets a 21-0 lead with 16 seconds to play in the quarter.
The defense came up with a fourth-down stop deep in Alabama State territory early in the second quarter, leading to a Hornet touchdown four plays later. Isaiah Crowell’s career-long 61-yard touchdown run gave Alabama State a 28-0 lead with 7:44 to play until halftime. Crowell rushed 16 times for a season-high 127 yards and one touchdown.
A bobbled snap of another Alcorn punt attempt set up the Hornets’ next touchdown at the Braves’ seven-yard line, where RB Malcolm Cyrus’ scoring run on the next play gave Alabama State a commanding 34-0 lead with just under six minutes to play in the first half.
“It was bad weather (throughout the game) and our guys stayed focused,” Barlow said. “There was a time or two where we let them score, but we wanted to score a lot of points. It’s good to have an offensive explosion. We had some turnovers we were able to score on and it was good to have that.”
After Alcorn State scored a pair of late first-half touchdowns, Alabama State scored on its opening drive of the third quarter. Jenkins completed a six-play, 63-yard drive with an eight-yard touchdown run to increase the lead to 41-14.
The Hornets added a pair of touchdowns less than a minute apart in the fourth quarter. Carey McKnight blocked an Alcorn punt, which was recovered by Corey Schofield in the end zone to extend the lead to 48-14 with just under 11:00 to play in the game.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brandon Napier recovered a Braves’ fumble and returned it to the Alcorn five-yard line. Two plays later, Rodney Cross scored on two-yard run for the final margin.
The Hornets forced five turnovers (one interception, four fumbles) and limited Alcorn State to 195 yards total offense and forced seven three-and-outs, including a trio fourth-down stops. Brandon Roberts had a team-high 10 tackles, including two for loss, and one forced fumble.
“Our defense stepped up and played well,” Barlow said. “We stopped the run and made some plays on the ball. Of course, we still have to tighten up at the end of the half in our two-minute offense, and stopping them in their two minute offense. All in all, the guys tackled well, they made the plays on the ball, and we’re excited and happy about that.”
The Hornets return to action at home next Saturday vs. Texas Southern at 1 p.m.