Plenty of people counted Alcorn State out, as it stumbled and fell into a month-long losing streak.
Not coach Earnest Collins. His steady hand guided the Braves back, and now his is the only team in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s neck-and-neck Eastern Division that controls its own fate. That makes this a whole new season, starting on Saturday. Win out, and the surprising Braves are headed to the SWAC title match in Birmingham, Ala.
“Surprised?” Collins asks, rhetorically. “I’m not surprised. I knew we had the make up of a team that could get it done. That four-game skid we took, we knew there were just some little things missing. We knew we were on to something pretty good.”
[TDR breaks down the complete championship game scenarios for the SWAC East.]
Alcorn (4-4, 3-3 SWAC), which takes on a listing Alabama A&M (2-6, 1-5) this week in Huntsville, Ala., will again rely on the flinty Brandon Bridge — the very definition of risk/reward in a young quarterback. Take the Arkansas-Pine Bluff loss, last Thursday, when Bridge threw three interceptions but still earned SWAC newcomer of the week honors anyway after passing for 271 yards and two scores, while rushing for 142 yards and two more touchdowns.
The Braves now have a total of 10 turnovers in the last four games. They are also dealing with an uphill schedule, since their bye was in week two — eight straight games ago. But Collins is pleased with his group’s can-do attitude.
“I’m pleased that the kids are starting to understand what we are trying to get them to do,” Collins said. “They want it. They want to be the first team since 1994 to represent Alcorn State with a SWAC championship.”