LORMAN, Miss. – In a game that featured a lot of offense, it was the defense of the Alcorn State University football program that made a stand in the end to defeat Alabama A&M 34-28 Saturday at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium on Senior Day.
The Braves (7-3, 5-1 SWAC) led 34-28 when the dangerous AAMU (6-5, 3-3 SWAC) offense came on the field with 2:40 left. Alcorn thought it won the game after junior Juwan Taylor ran back a pick-six, but pass interference was called on the Braves to keep AAMU alive and placed the ball at the 50.
The Bulldogs continued to march down the field, and called timeout with four seconds left at the Alcorn 14. On the final play, the game ended on an illegal touching penalty after the intended wide receiver stepped out of bounds in the back of the endzone, came back in and was the first to touch the ball.
The game was a shootout for the most part. The two teams combined for 1,053 yards of offense as the Braves rushed for 234 yards and passed for 288, while the Bulldogs rushed for 259 and passed for 272.
Junior LeCharles Pringle hauled in three touchdowns and a game-high 113 yards. Senior Raidarious Anderson also registered a touchdown.
Junior Felix “Triggerman” Harper threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for a career-high 79 yards. Freshman Niko Duffey also turned in a 100-yard rushing performance and a touchdown.
On defense, junior Juwan Taylor shined with 10 tackles and an interception. Senior Javen Morrison also recorded an interception. Junior Qwynnterrio Cole reached double-figures in tackles with 10.
For AAMU, senior running back Jordan Bentley broke loose for 245 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Aqeel Glass threw for 264 yards, and Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim ended with 112 receiving yards.
With a win next weekend, Alcorn would clinch home-field advantage for the SWAC Championship.
Alcorn got the ball first and wasted little time. Harper connected with senior Chris Blair for 14 yards to move into AAMU territory, and then found Pringle for a 37-yard touchdown to make it 7-0 early.
On AAMU’s first possession, the team decided to go for it on a 4th-and-4 play at the Alcorn 19, but the pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.
The Bulldogs took over again midway through the first quarter after a defensive stand. A methodical drive featured four completions and six rushes including a five-yard sprint by Bentley to tie the game 7-7 at the 2:53 mark.
The Braves were threatening early in the second quarter after a 20-yard rush by Duffey moved Alcorn into the red zone. However, on 3rd-and-8 at the Alcorn 14, a short pass to the outside was intercepted by Adrian Portlock.
AAMU had the chance to take the lead early in the second. The series started with a 24-yard by Bentley, and the Bulldogs were later set up in the red zone. Alcorn held them to a field goal opportunity, and the 34-yard kick was missed, wide right.
Alcorn took advantage of the missed field goal and turned it into points. A 33-yard pass to freshman Akeem McNair got it to start, and a pair of runs by Duffey placed the ball at the AAMU 39. The Braves kept it on the ground, and after a 12-yard run by Duffey and a facemask penalty, Duffey capped it off with a one-yard run up the middle to put the team up 14-7 with 3:29 remaining.
The Bulldogs punched back late in the half. Taking over with just 3:22 left, four completions have them quickly moving down the field. Then, Bentley got free for a 22-yard touchdown run to even it 14-14 with 1:08 left.
With very little time remaining, Alcorn was not content with going into the half tied. A 17-yard rush by sophomore Jonathon Bolton was followed by a 16-yard spurt by Harper. Another big run of 19-yards by Harper stopped the clock after he ran out of bounds at the AAMU 19. Alcorn then delivered a back-breaker to AAMU with a 19-yard touchdown to Pringle to give the Braves a 21-14 edge at the intermission.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Bulldogs put together a seven-play, 71-yard drive, which ended with a nine-yard rush by Bentley to tie it 21-21.
Alcorn responded with a quick drive of its own including a pair of big passes. The first was a 31-yarder to Blair, which was followed by a 42-yard bomb to Anderson on one-on-one coverage. The extra point hit the post, but Alcorn led 27-21 with 9:27 to go in the third.
Early in the fourth, the Bulldogs were on the move again after a 10-yard completion to Cameron Young near midfield. AAMU took the lead 28-27 on a 42-yard dash by Bentley down the left side.
After a pair of punts, the Braves were winning the field position battle and started a drive at the AAMU 42 after a short punt. Alcorn cashed in with a 44-yard touchdown to Pringle on 3rd-and-12 to leap back ahead 34-28 with 11:44 remaining.
The Braves had an opportunity to put the game away late in the fourth. A 20-yard rush by Harper was followed by a 15-yard rush by senior Kevon Marsh. The Braves continued to run the ball and the clock, and were situated with a 4th-and-9 at the AAMU 15. Though, the field goal attempt that would have made it a two-possession game was missed, wide right.
AAMU took over with 2:40 left and two timeouts. On 4th-and-5 early in the drive, Glass was intercepted by Taylor and he ran it back for a touchdown, only for a flag to come out and pass interference was called. Glass threw a 24-yard pass to Ibrahim, and then again connected with Ibrahim on 4th-and-10 for 12 yards at the Alcorn 12. After an incomplete pass, the clock was stopped with four seconds. The game ended on an illegal touching call after a pass was thrown to a receiver in the back of the end zone.