Alcorn State aims to give Grambling a little of its own medicine

Alcorn State coach Earnest Collins looks at Grambling, and he sees what he wants his own offense to be: This gritty running attack that’s helping an inexperienced quarterback mature under center.

That could make this Saturday’s important Southwestern Athletic Conference battle look like something of mirror image.

“You look at Grambling, they are running the ball and taking care of their freshman quarterback (Anthony Carrothers),” Collins said. “That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Alcorn State‘s most recent contest against SWAC foe Texas Southern wasn’t the example Collins was looking for. The Braves only handed the ball to a running back 11 times, as freshman Brandon “Air Canada” Bridge went 15-for-34 passing for nearly 200 yards in the Braves’ 30-20 loss.

Compare that with GSU coach Rod Broadway’s group, which leads the league with 232 yards a game. The Tigers have handed the ball off almost 20 more times this season than has Alcorn. Grambling is also averaging nearly two more yards per carry going into the game, which will be broadcast over the Internet by GSU TV.

“We’ve got to get the run game incorporated into the offense,” Collins said. “We’ve got to get that fixed so we can protect the quarterback a little bit.”

Bridge, one of the most exciting young talents in the SWAC, looked like he was trying to do too much last week, and got caught on two interceptions and a fumble — the last of which was returned for a touchdown.

The Texas Southern stumble was “one of those games where he did some things that were characteristic of a freshman, like holding the ball and trying to make every play,” Collins said. “He’s learned from that game — and every game. He definitely had a lesson in how to take care of the ball.”

Frank Warren is averaging nearly 150 yards a game for the Tigers, dashing all the way to No. 2 in the FCS. Alcorn State’s Gabriel Nash is running for 83 fewer yards a night, and almost four fewer a carry.

As for Warren, he needs just 225 yards to pass Walter Dean for second all-time at Grambling, and 692 to top Eric Gant. With 460 more yards this season, Warren will pass Walter Payton for fifth on the SWAC’s all-time rushing list. Jackson State‘s Destry Wright (1997-99) holds the league record with 4,049 career yards — 946 yards away.

And that’s not even the best storyline here.

The postseason implications have quickly elevated both this 2 p.m. game and the nearby Jackson State-Southern match. Though both are cross-divisional, every contest against a SWAC opponent counts this season — and in two bunched-up divisions, any stumble could be devastating to a team’s SWAC Championship Game dream. (JSU TV is broadcasting the Southern game, too.)

Both Alcorn and Jackson are 2-1 in conference play. Grambling, meanwhile, is 4-0 in SWAC action, with Texas Southern one back at 3-1. Those two teams meet on Nov. 11.

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