The Braves (3-4, 2-3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference) started this season on a run, winning their first three and going undefeated in league action, but have since lost four straight — though I give Alcorn State credit for matching Arkansas-Pine Bluff nearly blow-for-blow in a nationally televised stumble last week on ESPNU.
Up until that point, the Braves still controlled their destiny in trying to reach the SWAC title game on Dec. 11 in Birmingham, Ala. Then UAPB scored 12 unanswered points to steal the win.
“We’re just going to keep fighting,” Alcorn State coach Earnest Collins says. “That’s all we know how to do.”
Meanwhile, Southern (2-5, 1-4) looked impressive in its own defeat against Jackson State, but has now dropped four of its last five after a late-game flop last week against Prairie View A&M.
“It’s very satisfying and gratifying,” a relieved-sounding Panthers coach Henry Frazier said. “I’ve been saying, ‘We have a good football team.’ My hat goes off to Southern. They made some big plays in the first half, but we made a few adjustments and came out and shut them out in the second half.”
Southern travels this week to Alcorn, with kickoff set for 2 p.m. Saturday in Jack Spinks Stadium at Lorman, Miss. Who wins this battle of the enigmas might be anybody’s guess.
Apparently, the formula for the Braves is to start fast: Opponents have outscored Southern at an alarming rate in the first quarter so far this season — 73-25. Southern has not started the second period with a lead yet in 2010.
“We haven’t been able to put good games together back-to-back,” Jaguars coach Stump Mitchell said. “I know that they going to be excited, and right now, they think they have the remedy this weekend — and that’s Southern coming into town. So it’s going to be a tough game, but we’re going to try to fight through it.”
The Jaguars get no relief from a string of opposing top quarterbacking talent — having already faced Jackson State’s Casey Therriault, a Walter Payton Award candidate, and then the 2009 offensive player of the year in K.J. Black of Prairie View. Up next is the inexperienced but awfully exciting Brandon Bridge for Alcorn.
Bridge has thrown for 1,457 yards, but true-freshman mistakes have levelled his production at 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s perhaps most dangerous on the ground, having already run for 431 yards and six touchdowns.
“From what I’ve seen on film, he looks pretty darn good,” Mitchell said. “You give the guy an inch an he’ll take a mile, when it comes to running. And he’s a pretty good passer as well. But I think he’s surrounded by some good players.”
Southern hasn’t been so blessed with its own new quarterback.
Jeremiah McGinty is leading a Jaguars offense that’s putting up just 322.3 yards per game, seventh in the SWAC. He’s shown flashes, and has a much better touchdowns-to-interception ratio than Bridge at 9 to 3, but was sitting on the bench by the fourth quarter of his team’s 30-16 loss to Prairie View.
A stumble against Alcorn would give Stump Mitchell his second three-game losing streak of the year — something that hasn’t happened in Baton Rouge since 1990, during Gerald Kimble’s second season. The Jaguars finished that year at 4-7.