Alcorn State wins Cricket Wireless SWAC Championship 39-24 over Southern

From Alcorn State Athletics:

Southern Logo

24 Southern 8-5

Alcorn State Logo

39 Alcorn State 9-3

Alcorn State9702339

LORMAN, Miss. – For the second consecutive year, the Alcorn State University football program used a big fourth quarter to defeat Southern, as it pulled away late for a 39-24 final Saturday in the Cricket Wireless SWAC Championship at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.

The Braves (9-3, 6-1 SWAC) trailed 17-16 heading into the fourth quarter, and were still down 24-22 with 8:43 remaining. Alcorn took the lead on a 23-yard field goal by senior Corey McCullough, and then put the game away with a six-yard rushing touchdown by senior De’Shawn Waller and a pick-six by senior Taurence Wilson.

Senior wide receiver LeCharles Pringle was named the SWAC Championship Offensive MVP. He hauled in a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown.

The SWAC Championship Defensive MVP went to junior defensive back Juwan Taylor. He matched his career-high with 11 tackles and also tallied an interception, forced fumble and tackle for a loss.

At quarterback, junior Felix “Triggerman” Harper – the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year – ended with 226 yards and a touchdown.

Two of Alcorn’s touchdowns came on the ground as Waller scored one and sophomore Trey Turner ran in the other.

For the Jaguars (8-5, 6-1 SWAC), Ladarius Skelton threw for 159 yards, and rushed for 46 yards and two touchdowns. Jarrod Sims ran for a game-high 149 yards and a touchdown.

The game was filled with turnovers, but the Braves won the turnover margin with three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. The Jaguars intercepted three passes.

It was the second year in a row where Alcorn trailed by Southern by one point heading into the fourth quarter. Last year, it was down 28-27 when it scored the final 10 points of the game. In both games, the Braves took control in the fourth.

Alcorn advances to the 2019 Celebration Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 21 at 11 a.m. (CT) in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.

On the first series of the game, the Jaguars intercepted a pass at midfield after a pair of first downs by the Braves. Alcorn’s defense returned the favor with a turnover, as junior Qwynnterrio Cole ripped the ball loose on a rush by Skelton and junior Daimen Anderson grabbed the fumble.

The turnovers continued early in the first quarter. After Southern took over with great field position at the Alcorn 32, senior Solomon Muhammad jumped in front of a pitch play in the back field and ran it all the way down to the Southern 2. However, on the very next play, the Jaguars recorded an interception in the end zone after a tipped pass to keep the game scoreless.

Southern got on the board first at the 2:07 mark of the first quarter. It came on 32-yard rush by Sims through the left side to go up 7-0. It capped a six-play, 87-yard drive.

The Braves quickly tied it up as senior Javen Morrison ran back the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. He cut through the middle and then could not be caught from behind down the right side to make it 7-7 with 1:56 remaining.

Southern started at its own 3-yard line on its next drive after the kickoff was dropped out of bounds. A few plays later, a holding penalty was called on the Jaguars in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. The Braves went up 9-7 with 1:06 to go.

The Jaguars regained the lead, 14-9 early in the second quarter. A long, 9-play, 70-yard drive was capped by a 3-yard quarterback-keeper up the middle by Skelton. The play that got them going was a 17-yard run by Cameron Mackey, bundled with a 15-yard personal foul by the Braves.

Alcorn wasted very little time to jump back in front 16-14.  The drive started with an 18-yard completion to Pringle, and was followed by a 26-yard rush by freshman Niko Duffey. The Braves neared the goal line after a 28-yard reception by Anderson. The scoring play was a 3-yard run by Turner on a quarterback-option play to the right with 8:58 left.

On Southern’s next drive, a fumble was knocked loose by Taylor on a running play and Muhammad recovered at the SU 42. However, the turnover did not result in points as the Braves went on 4th-and-1 at the 24 and the run was stopped short.

Late in the half, the Jaguars were looking to put points on the board after starting a drive at the Alcorn 48 with two minutes left. Southern advanced to the Alcorn 25, but a big sack by junior Mikail Webb on third down pushed the Jaguars back. Southern attempt a 50-yard field goal in the closing seconds, but it was missed wide-right. The Braves led 16-14 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Jaguars were given the ball at the Alcorn 9-yard line after a short punt, followed by two 15-yard enforced penalties. Though, the Braves made a big defensive play as Taylor cut in front of the intended receiver and intercepted the ball in the end zone.

The Braves entered the red zone late in the third quarter on a 36-yard completion to Pringle. Though, they couldn’t advance further, and a 34-yard field goal was shanked.

The Braves got the ball back after a three-and-out by the defense. After they got backed up on a fumble, Harper aired it out and found Pringle wide-open behind the secondary on 2nd-and-17 for a 56-yard touchdown catch. The two-point conversion was failed after an incomplete pass, but Alcorn was back ahead 22-17 with 14:02 to go.

The Jaguars put together a long drive as they slowly marched down the field the other way. A pair of big penalties on the Braves aided the drive, but Southern punched it in on an 8-yard run by Skelton up the middle. Southern led 24-22 at the 8:43 mark. It was a 12-play, 80-yard series.

Alcorn quickly pushed it the other way, as a reception and a rush by Duffey crossed midfield. A diving catch by Pringle went for 28 yards to the SU 19. The Braves got it to the 6-yard line when they made a 23-yard field goal was made by McCullough. Alcorn led 25-24 with 5:07 to go.

The Jaguars were situated with a 4th-and-1 at their own 48 when they kept the offense on the field with about four minutes left. They tried to run for the first down, but Cole came up to the line of scrimmage and stuffed Sims for no gain and a turnover on downs.

The Braves put the game away on its next three plays. It started with a 31-yard rush by Waller, and followed with an 11-yard carry by Duffey. Waller then ran it in six yards to make it a 32-24 game with 1:57 left.

Southern had one last chance with the ball, but a 53-yard pick-six by Wilson was the icing on the cake with 1:12 remaining.

– The Braves won their 17th conference championship in school history, their second in a row and fourth in the last six years.

– Alcorn has now won 10 of the last 11 games against SU. It includes wins in the 2014, 2018 & 2019 SWAC Championships. Alcorn is 40-27-2 all-time against the Jaguars.

– The Braves, who are the six-time reigning SWAC East Division champions, posted their first-ever 7-0 season in stadium history. Alcorn is 86-53 all-time at the stadium in 28 seasons. Alcorn is the only institution to ever host a SWAC Championship, and did so for the second year in a row.

– Alcorn upped its home winning-streak to 10 games, which is the fifth longest active streak in FCS. It was the fifth undefeated home season in stadium history, and the first since 2002.

– With a 56-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, Pringle tied the all-time school record for touchdown catches in a season with 14. It was set by Tim McNair Sr. in 1994.

– Alcorn has won 21 straight games when leading at halftime.

– The Braves have won eight of their last nine games against SWAC West Division opponents. They snapped Southern’s four-game winning-streak.

– Alcorn has outscored the opposition 99-51 in the fourth quarter this year. It came after it outscored the opposition 102-42 in the fourth quarter in 2018.

– With the go-ahead field goal in the fourth quarter, McCullough is up to 44 field goals made in his career, which are the most in school history.

– The Braves entered the game ranked No. 1 in the national HBCU Coaches Poll, by BOXTOROW. They will play NC A&T for the HBCU National Championship.

– Alcorn’s captains were seniors Darrell HendersonChris Blair and Morrison. The Braves won the toss and received.

Quoting SWAC Coach of the Year Fred McNair
What does it mean to be back-to-back SWAC Champions
“It’s a testament to these young men in how they play the game. They work hard all through camp and through the season to get to this point, and this is where they wanted to be. Just talking this morning during pregame, we just wanted to be champions today. They came out and played the game very hard, and it means a lot not only to these players but to this university as well. This university and the administration do a lot for this program here at Alcorn and continue to do it; it means a lot to this university.”

On the crucial fourth-down stop late in the game
“It was big, they had been running that same play off-tackle and inside zone then to the backside the whole night for big yardage so we were kind of looking for that play. I thought Qwynnterrio did a great job coming in and filling it in to make that stop. Great call by Coach [Cedric] Thornton, the guys that were in position to make the play, made the play.”

On the game plan to stopping Southern quarterback Ladarius Skelton
“One of the keys we worked on all week, for the last two weeks that we prepared for Southern was that he wasn’t going to beat us with his legs. We did a great job of containing him with his legs and made him throw some balls. He threw some up to us so that was a key to it.”

On Alcorn being considered a dynasty
“The only thing I can do is keep coaching, and my hats off to these young men, we pass our knowledge on as coaches to get them prepared to play every Saturday. The things that they do over the course of the week, they play hard, they work hard and it pays off. I told them ‘the biggest thing is when you become champions, you become a target’ and what it takes to become champions is hard work and dedication. I think these guys are full of all that, they dedicate themselves to this team, they dedicate themselves to the classroom and they dedicate themselves to doing things the right way. That’s the way to having a winning program is to do things the right way.”

What would Steve McNair think of this
“Every time I leave the locker room during the course of a football game I’m always going back after we pray and I give the team my super talk, I go back into the coaching lounge and I have a moment with him. That’s one of those moments where I say, ‘I know you’re with me bro’, so that’s special.”

On the McNair legacy at Alcorn State University
“When I became the head coach here it was one of the things that I wanted to do, I wanted to be a head coach here at this university. I felt like I owed this university something to come back, and what other way than to be the head coach here? When I was named the head coach I was very emotional because this is the place I want to be and this is the place that gave me an opportunity to further my education with two degrees and coach the team that I love.”

Quoting wide receiver LeCharles Pringle
What are you most looking forward to in the Celebration Bowl
“I’m looking for everybody to be healthy, everybody to come back and play ball. We’re hoping we can pull this one out this time.”

On his touchdown catch breaking the game open
“That’s just coaching – coach called the play at the right time, I got in my spot where I was supposed to be, I got open, Felix made the play and the rest is history.”

On the rivalry with Southern
“We know whenever we come in or we go over there that it’s going to be a big game. We just try to listen to our coaches, do what we’re told and if we play Braves football we will win.”

On being back-to-back SWAC Champions
“It feels amazing. I’m just glad to be here and a part of this. I’m glad to have two rings.”

On coming into the season with a target on their backs as defending champions:
“It was a big grind, but Coach McNair stayed on us every day, telling us that every team is going to want to come in here and beat us. It’s a target on our backs and we’re just trying to execute to take that target off.”

On if they would want anything done different
“I feel like everything happens for a reason, every loss happens for a reason, but I feel like we’ll be alright now.”

Quoting defensive back Juwan Taylor
On being able to stop the Southern offense consistently
“All the credit goes to the guys up front, they played a major role. I want to thank Coach [Cedric] Thornton for putting us in positions to make plays. I was just happy with the effort our guys played with all night.”

On playing North Carolina A&T again in the Celebration Bowl
“Actually, I didn’t play in the game last year because I was a recruit, but looking at it I think we just have to take care of the small things, be healthy and we’ll be fine.”

On going to his first Celebration Bowl
“I feel so blessed right now. I can’t even explain it right now. I want to thank Coach McNair for giving me the opportunity to further my education and play football for this great school.”

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Team Statistics

Total Yards419347
Pass Yards168226
Rushing Yards251121
Penalty Yards7-567-72
1st Downs2718
3rd Downs7-134-12
4th Downs0-10-1
02:07 – SUBR – Sims, J. 32 yd run (Fontenot, M. kick), 6 plays, 87 yards, TOP 2:2670
01:56 – ALCN – Morrison, Javen 89 yd kickoff return (McCullough, C. kick)77
01:06 – ALCN – TEAM -4 yd safety79
10:33 – SUBR – Skelton, L. 3 yd run (Fontenot, M. kick), 9 plays, 70 yards, TOP 4:27149
08:58 – ALCN – Turner, Trey 3 yd run (McCullough, C. kick), 4 plays, 75 yards, TOP 1:331416
06:44 – SUBR – Barajas, C. 41 yd field goal 6 plays, 30 yards, TOP 2:121716
14:02 – ALCN – Pringle, L. 56 yd pass from Harper, Felix (Harper, Felix pass failed) 4 plays, 60 yards, TOP 1:231722
08:43 – SUBR – Skelton, L. 8 yd run (Barajas, C. kick), 12 plays, 80 yards, TOP 5:122422
05:07 – ALCN – McCullough, C. 23 yd field goal 12 plays, 63 yards, TOP 3:322425
01:57 – ALCN – Waller, D. 6 yd run (McCullough, C. kick), 3 plays, 48 yards, TOP 1:232432
01:12 – ALCN – Wilson, T. 53 yd interception (McCullough, C. kick)2439

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