Alcorn State toughened by season-opener at Georgia Tech

Alcorn State quarterback Felix Harper on the move against Georgia Tech. Photo courtesy of USA Today

ATLANTA – Nearly the entire roster played for the Alcorn State University football program as it dropped a 41-0 decision to Georgia Tech on the road Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Alcorn (0-1) saw seven different student-athletes carry the ball and 10 different wide receivers caught a pass. Senior P.J. Simmons, the SWAC Preseason Offensive Player Player, led the way with 10 rushes for 47 yards (4.7 ypc) and also caught three passes for nine yards.

The Braves used both junior Noah Johnson and sophomore Felix Harper at quarterback. Johnson tallied 51 yards passing on 10-of-15 attempts, while Harper was 5-for-8 for 18 yards. Johnson also rushed for 21 yards on six carries.

Defensively, senior Alvin Wilson led the Braves with eight tackles including four solo. Senior Trae Ferrell notched seven tackles including one for a loss. Junior Taurence Wilson grabbed an interception to end Georgia Tech’s (1-0) two-minute drill at the end of the first half.

The Braves forced two fumbles in the game and they were recovered by junior Brelion Hollis and freshman Keyron Kinsler.

“We came out and played hard today,” said Alcorn State coach Fred McNair. “The defense played exceptionally well for most of the way, especially having to adjust to the way Georgia Tech plays with the triple-option. The offense had some opportunities, but we weren’t able to execute on a couple passes. We’ll get better. We showed some good spurts on offense but we need more consistency. We just have to keep working, and there are some things we were excited about from this game.”

Alcorn limited Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall to just 9-of-18 for 104 yards throwing with an interception. The Braves out-tackled Georgia Tech 71-46. On special teams, junior Corey McCullough booted nine punts for a career-high 372 yards (41.3 ypp). He cranked a long of 51 yards and four of his punts landed inside the 20. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 439 yards, including 85 and a touchdown by Jordan Mason. KinVonte Benson scored two touchdowns to go along with 75 yards.

On the opening series of the game, Johnson completed a quick pass to freshman Juan Anthony Jr., but the Braves were forced to punt. Georgia Tech scored on its opening drive including a 28-yard touchdown by Mason to go up 7-0. It capped a four-play, 68-yard drive which featured all running plays.

On Georgia Tech’s second drive, the Yellow Jackets approached midfield when senior Quintin Smith forced a fumble and Hollis recovered to give the Braves good field position. Alcorn was backed up by a false start penalty and the drive stalled out at the Georgia Tech 40.

The Yellow Jackets went up 13-0 early in the second quarter. The scoring play was a one-yard quarterback keeper by Marshall. The extra-point hit the left post, no good, but it ended a nine-play series for 81 yards consisting of all running plays.

Harper entered the game on Alcorn’s first series of the second quarter and completed his first pass on a screen to junior De’Shawn Waller. Though, the Braves were forced to punt. The Yellow Jackets led 20-0 when they had the ball in a two-minute drill situation. Georgia Tech went for the deep ball down the left side when Taurence Wilson leaped up and made the interception despite offensive pass interference which was declined.

After a Georgia Tech interception, the Yellow Jackets attempted a last-second 50-yard field goal which sailed wide right. Georgia Tech led 20-0 at the half.

The Yellow Jackets got the ball first in the second half and scored on their opening drive to increase their edge to 27-0. Georgia Tech added-on 34-0 early in the third after David Curry scooped up a fumble after a big hit and returned it for a touchdown.

The Braves started to move the ball midway through the third. It started with a first down carry by Simmons, and then on third down Johnson connected with junior Raidarious Anderson for nine yards to move the chains at Georgia Tech 45. However, Alcorn was pushed back by a holding penalty and ultimately had to punt. McCullough’s punt landed at the Georgia Tech three-yard line.

Georgia Tech answered with a 97-play drive including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Brad Stewart in the back left corner in the end zone to lead 41-0 with 3:07 remaining in the third. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets faced a 4th-and-goal from the one-yard line when Wilson stuffed the rush and Georgia Tech turned it over on downs.

After an Alcorn fumble, the Yellow Jackets returned the favor late in the game as freshman Keyron Kinsler recovered it before being tripped up.

“This was a very tough and physical game,” McNair said. “We’ll have a chance to watch the film and learn something from it. This game definitely made us tougher and we did a good job of battling. We had a great goal-line stand defensively, and the offense just needs to execute. It wasn’t about what Georgia Tech did today as much as it was about what we do and what we need to get better at.”

The Braves entered the week ranked third in the Preseason HBCU Poll and are receiving votes in the Preseason FCS Poll. The Braves will play their home-opener next weekend when they host Louisiana College at 6 p.m. Saturday at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium. Alcorn carries over a four-game home winning streak from last season.

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