Saturday, October 15, 2016

Turner’s Blocked Punt, Rushing Touchdown Leads Alcorn to Homecoming Victory

LORMAN, Mississippi -- Junior De'Lance Turner changed the game with a special teams play, followed by a touchdown to headline the 23-20 win for the Alcorn State University football program over Texas Southern on Saturday at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium on homecoming.

The Braves (3-3, 3-2 SWAC) were struggling to move the ball offensively in the second half after junior quarterback Lenorris Footman left with a shoulder injury. With the defense stepping up and holding the Tigers (3-3, 3-2 SWAC) in-check, Turner came through with a blocked punt to give the Braves the ball at the two-yard line. Turner then punched it in on a two-yard rush for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.

It marked the second week in a row that Turner blocked a punt.

TXSO had one last chance late in the game as it moved the ball into Alcorn territory trailing by three points, but good coverage on third down by junior Jayron Harness, followed by a batted-down pass by Harness on fourth down sealed the win.

Junior wide receiver Norlando Veals had a career day with 106 receiving yards and a pair of touchdown catches. Footman, the reigning SWAC and College Sports Madness Offensive Player of the Week winner, was 17-for-24 throwing with two touchdown throws and 45 yards rushing before he left on the first series of the third quarter.

Alcorn's defense limited TXSO quarterback Averion Hurts to just 14-for-37 throwing and an interception by freshman Javen Morrison. Hurts was sacked twice in the game, once each by senior Darien Anderson and junior Michael Brooks.

Anderson led the team defensively with a career-high 13 tackles and three tackles for a loss resulting in negative 22 yards. Senior Michael Hurns was also all over the field with nine tackles. Reigning SWAC Newcomer of the Week winner sophomore Trae Ferrell ended with four tackles

Austin Watts was TXSO's top offensive player with 111 receiver yards and a touchdown catch. Sean Jones recorded a game-high 16 tackles for the Tigers.

The Tigers scored on their opening drive on a 39-yard touchdown pass over-the-middle to Watts. It came after a seven-play, 75-yard drive which included a 25-yard pass to Malik Webb.

The Braves quickly responded on their first series with a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive capped by a 21-yard pass to Veals to even the score 7-7. Footman rushed for 32 yards on the drive, while Turner ran for 24.

On the first play of the Tigers second drive, they found Watts for a 66-yard pass on a deep ball through the middle to get into the redzone. TXSO scored on a three-yard quarterback-keeper by Hurts to make it 14-7 at the 5:49 mark.

After the Braves were forced to punt, the Tigers tried the deep ball again but were intercepted by Morrison on their first play. Morrison ran it back to the Alcorn 49-yard line to give the Braves good field position. The Braves cut the deficit to 14-10 early in the second quarter after a 39-yard field goal by senior Haiden McCraney.

Still trailing, the Braves took over at their own 12-yard line with 3:25 left in the half. Alcorn slowly moved down the field and converted on a pair of big third-down passes to senior Collins Moore to keep the drive alive. With 27 seconds left, Footman found Veals over-the-middle for a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the Braves ahead 17-14 after a 10-play drive.

Alcorn got the ball first in the second half, but Footman left the game with an upper body injury and the Braves were forced to punt. On the ensuing drive, the Tigers leveled the score 17-17 after a 48-yard field goal by Eric Medina.

Both defenses stood strong for the rest of the third quarter as the team's punted to each other back-and-forth.

Another stop by Alcorn's defense early in the fourth quarter brought out the TXSO punting unit, and the big blocked punt by Turner set up the Braves at the two-yard line. Turner was handed the ball on the first play and scored on a two-yard rush to put Alcorn ahead 23-17 after a blocked extra point.

The Braves were driving again inside the TXSO 30-yard line when it got penalized 15 yards, and then lost a fumble after a sack as the Tigers took over at the Alcorn 47-yard line. On the following drive, the Braves got a pair of third down stops, but both times a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty was called on them to keep TXSO's drive going. Alcorn's defense got another stop, resulting in a 35-yard field goal which made it a 23-20 game with 5:14 remaining.

After a three-and-out, the Tigers took over at their own 27-yard line with 3:36 to go. They converted a fourth-and-six to move into Alcorn territory with a little over a minute left. TXSO kept throwing, but did not get closer than the Alcorn 46-yard line after Harness' defensive plays.

1st Quarter
10:34 – 39-yard pass from A. Hurts to A. Watts (E. Medina XP), 7-75-4:26, 7-0 TXSO
7:54 – 21-yard pass from L. Footman to N. Veals (H. McCraney XP), 9-88-2:40, 7-7
5:49 – 3-yard rush by A. Hurts (E. Medina XP), 4-75-2:05, 14-7 TXSO
2nd Quarter
14:10 – 39-yard field goal by H. McCraney, 8-29-4:15, 14-10 TXSO
0:27 – 32-yard pass from H. Footman to N. Veals (H. McCraney XP), 10-88-2:58, 17-14 Alcorn
3rd Quarter
7:24 – 48-yard field goal by E. Medina, 8-48-3:24, 17-17
4th Quarter
13:34 – 2-yard rush by D. Turner (H. McCraney XP blocked), 1-2-0:09, 23-17 Alcorn
5:14 – 35-yard field goal by E. Medina, 11-28-4:52, 23-20 Alcorn

- Alcorn has not allowed a second half touchdown in two straight games. It combined to outscore Alabama A&M and TXSO 34-9 in the second half and 27-3 in the fourth quarter.

- The Braves posted their fifth consecutive victory over the Tigers. They won 65-13 last season, 40-25 in 2014, 20-13 in 2013 and 34-24 in 2012.

- Anderson entered the game ranked third in the SWAC in tackles with 8.4 per game, and increased it greatly with his 13 tackles. It broke his previous career-high of 12 set twice previously. Anderson was named Hero of the Week by HERO Sports on Friday, Sept. 30 after a monster performance against Grambling State which included 12 tackles and a career-high four sacks.

- Veals caught two touchdown passes in a single game for the first time in his career. His previous career-high in receiving yards was 92 against UAPB earlier this season. Veals' 32-yard touchdown catch was also a career-long reception.

- McCraney finished the game with 303 punting yards on seven attempts and a 43.3 average. It increased his season average of 39.7 coming into the game.

- Senior Haiden McCraney boomed a 70-yard punt earlier this year at Grambling State, which is the longest in the SWAC this season. It was the second-longest of his career after he blasted a 77-yarder last year against Concordia. McCraney ranks second in the league with 39.7 yards per punt on average.

- Alcorn's captains were freshman Tavares Johnson Jr. and seniors Detonio Dade and Anderson. The Braves won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.

Quoting Alcorn head coach Fred McNair
Opening Statement
"I'm proud of these guys, they really fought their butts off in this game. Played a totally different game in the second half. The defense stepped up and made some really big plays in the time of need. That was a big 4th down play by Jayron, being able to break that final pass up. De'Lance kept doing what he does on punt return and continued to block punts. The team showed real effort today."

On injuries
"That injury bug is still hanging around us. We'll see what's really happening with everyone when the trainers get a good look at them tomorrow. [Jaborian] McKenzie went down with a knee and Footman is feeling funny in his shoulder. We had a couple us guys come back this week from injury, they played and gave us some depth. We are going to use this Bye week to get them back healthy."

Quoting junior De'Lance Turner
On his blocked punt
I just felt like I had to go out there and do my job. The field position really changed the game for the offense."

Quoting junior Jayron Harness
On the last 4th down
"We had to remember how coach always tells us to touch our temple and keep our head. We are going to always go through adversity. We kept saying fight, fight, fight. We knew the significance of this game especially going into the bye week."

On being near the top of the East Division
"We don't think about the other teams. We only think about Alcorn versus the Braves. If we show up to play no one can beat us."

The Braves have a bye week coming up and will return to the field Saturday, Oct. 29 when they host Southern University. The game will be a Purple Out at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.

Alcorn is looking for its fifth consecutive win over the Jaguars after posting a 48-7 victory on the road last year, 56-16 win at home in 2014, 44-38 result on the road in 2013 and 20-17 decision at home in 2012.

In the meeting last season, Footman ran for a career-high 274 yards. He accounted for six total touchdowns, another career-high, including four rushing and two throwing.


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