LORMAN, MS–In a game that was tied at 3-3 at halftime, things were much different in the second half as Alcorn State’s offense came to life, scoring 21 unanswered points to defeat Jackson State 24-3 in front of a packed crowd at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium on Saturday.
With the win, Alcorn State (8-3, 6-1) will make its fifth appearance in the SWAC Championship game against the winner of Southern and Grambling in the Bayou Classic. The Braves are now 15-2 against SWAC East opponents within the last four seasons.
Alcorn 24, JSU 3 – Final.
— Alcorn Sports (@BRAVESSPORTS) November 17, 2018
Alcorn dialed up 394 yards of offense in the game, 17 first downs and finished 7-of-12 on third down conversions, something that played a big factor in the Braves massive second-half offensive performance. Defensively, the Braves held the Tigers to 195 yards of total offense that included only 92 rushing yards for Jackson State.
Braves head coach Fred McNair said he kept the message simple for his players at halftime.
“We got more on tempo in the second half and the only thing I told them in the second half to do was to close their eyes and think of the second half of the New Mexico State game,” McNair said.
A game the Braves almost won. More importantly, however, the message worked.
— BON RENO 🤞🏿🔥 (@Infamous_Brave) November 17, 2018
Braves junior quarterback Noah Johnson – who entered the game as the third-best quarterback in the SWAC — got off to a slow start but finished the game with 177 yards on 14-of-20 passing and one touchdown.
However, the real story came in the Braves rushing attack, a unit that reeled off 217 yards behind the play of running backs De’Shawn Waller (rushed for 124 yards on 22 carries), PJ Simmons (67 yards), Johnson (11) and Marquise Forman (17 yards).
After a 3-3 deadlock in the first half, the Braves scored on their first drive in the third quarter. Starting from their own 28, Johnson and Waller put together a series of plays that included a 19-yard run from Waller to JSU’s 16-yard line. Simmons ran twice, allowing him to get in the end zone, giving the Braves a 10-3 lead.
From there, Alcorn never looked back. After a quick three and out by the Tigers, the Braves kept their momentum going. On third and four from their own 26, Waller ran for 20 yards before Johnson connected on an out route with receiver Juan Anthony for a 47-yard touchdown pass. The Braves led 17-3.
Then, after consecutive punts from both teams in the fourth, the Braves defense put the dagger in the game. With 8:11 to play, Hayes – who was looking to connect with one of his receivers – was picked off by Alcorn’s Taurence Wilson, who returned it 31 yards for the touchdown, giving the Braves their final touchdown of the game.
.@HBCUGameday As Tigers QB Jarrad Hayes looks to find a receiver, Braves DB Taurence Wilson picks off Hayes and returns it 31 yards for a Braves touchdown.
With 8:11 to play in the fourth…
Alcorn — 24
Jackson State — 3 pic.twitter.com/c5xbC5Gx2K
— Wilton C. Jackson II (@WiltonReports) November 17, 2018
Tigers quarterback Jarrad Hayes went 9-for-17 for 103 yards, while Keshawn Harper led the Tigers in rushing with 54 yards on 11 carries. Running back Jordan Johnson, who had been dealing with a lower leg injury, played in the game but was held to six yards. As an offensive unit, the Tigers recorded only seven first downs and went 5-of-13 on third down opportunities.
In the first quarter, neither team could get their offense in a rhythm. Johnson finished the quarter with 38 passing yards while PJ Simmons led the Braves in rushing with 14 yards. As for the Tigers, running back Keshawn Harper rushed for 50 yards while the Braves’ defense held Hayes to zero yards passing.
Early in the second, the Tigers got on the scoreboard. After a false start penalty on third down, Hayes ran for 15 yards to set up a 44-yard field goal by Christian Jacquemin, giving the Tigers an early 3-0 lead.
After several defensive stands throughout the quarter, with 3:55 to play, Alcorn put together a drive hoping to get in the end zone. However, the Braves got on the scoreboard in its final drive with McCullough notching a field goal, tying the game 3-3 at halftime.
For Jackson State, the Tigers season is over. But for interim head coach John Hendrick, it is just beginning to something great for the Tigers program.
“I liked to thank all of the seniors for their effort and the future they have set up for this program,” Hendrick said.
Meanwhile, the Braves will get a week off before preparing to play the winner of the Southern/Grambling game on their home field on Dec. 1 at 3:30 p.m.