By Roscoe Nance, For TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
Alcorn State used a fourth quarter surge to pull away from Southern to capture its second consecutive SWAC championship Saturday in Lorman, Miss, 39-24.
The victory was the fifth in a row for the Braves against the Jaguars and sets up a rematch of the 2018 Celebration Bowl against MEAC champion North Carolina A&T State in Atlanta Dec, 21. The Aggies won that game and have won three of the previous four Celebration Bowls.
Alcorn has now won 17 conference championships, including four the last six years, and has appeared in a record six straight title games. The final score is not an indication of how close the game was.
Alcorn (9-3, 6-1 SWAC) actually went into the fourth quarter trailing 17-16 and was trailed 24-22 with 8:43 remaining. The Braves took a 25-24 lead with 5:07 left in the game on Corey McCullough’s 23-yard field goal.
Senior running back De’Shawn Waller padded the lead with a six-yard touchdown run at the 1:57 mark, and senior cornerback Taurence Wilson delivered the knockout punch with a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:12 left on the clock, again sending the Jaguars (8-5 6-1 SWAC) back to Baton Rouge, La., in utter frustration.
It was the second straight year that Alcorn has trailed by one point entering the fourth quarter only to finish strong and win. They were behind 28-27 in the 2018 championship game before shutting out Southern 10-0 in the fourth quarter for a 38-27 win.
The team matched points and turnovers throughout this year’s contest. Southern amassed 419 yards total offense with 251 coming on the ground. But the Jaguars were guilty of six turnovers., including three interceptions off he arm of quarterback Ladarius Skelton who completed 18 of 30 attempts for only 159 yards. Freshman Jarod Sims powered Southern’s running attack with 149 yards.
Alcorn had 347 total yards with three turnovers. All of the Braves’ turnovers came on interceptions, two of which were thrown by quarterback Felix Harper, the SWAC Offensive Player Of The Year.
Harper entered the game having only thrown four interceptions in 270 attempts this season. Harper completed 12 of 25 throws for 226 yards and one touchdown against the Jaguars. Harper’s touchdown pass came on a 56-yard strike to LaCharles Pringle that gave the Braves a 22-17 lead with 14:02 remaining in the game.
Pringle was named the game’s Offensive MVP after catching five passes for a career-high 145 yards.