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Alcorn State looking to follow Virginia State and Morgan State into winner‘s circle after longtime drought

 

by Lut Williams

If you look at the 15-year history of the SWAC Football Championship you‘d see East Division members Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State as the only two teams in the 10-team conference never to win the crown or even play in the title game.SWAC FB Championship

Well, at least the part about playing in the championship game ends tomorrow for Alcorn State as third-year head coach Jay Hopson leads the Braves into the big game at 3 p.m. against Southern and fellow third-year head coach Dawson Odums.

The last time Alcorn State sniffed a SWAC championship was in 1994 under Cardell Jones, well before the implementation of the championship game, when they shared the title with Grambling in the final year of Braves‘ QB Steve McNair‘s legendary career.

Alcorn had a six-year run (2001-05) of winning records during head coach Johnny Thomas‘s 10-year tenure (1998-2007) but no titles. Their climb into title contention began last year under Hopson when they went 9-3 and finished a game out of the East Division crown.

Southern is in the game for the second year in a row under Odums, who took the Jaguar reins from Stump Mitchell early in the 2012 season. He has methodically turned the Jaguars‘ fortunes around winning the West Division and league title last year in his first full season on the job and leading them back to the title game for the first time since Pete Richardson accomplished the same at the end of the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

Richardson led the Jags to the first championship game title in 1999 (over Jackson State) and split the two other appearances, downing Alabama State in ‘03 before losing to the same team in ‘04. Southern didn‘t return to the championship game until last season.

If this year‘s pattern holds, Alcorn State will follow Virginia State of the CIAA and Morgan State of the MEAC as longtime absentees who found their way into the winner‘s circle.

But I wouldn‘t bet on it.

BLACK COLLEGE NATIONAL TITLE ON THE LINE?

There are many reasons to look at this Saturday‘s SWAC Championship Game, the last game on the 2014 black college football schedule, as the national championship game.

Southern (9-3), the SWAC West Division champ and hottest team in black college football, is at the top of the Sheridan and HBCU Sports Fans FCS poll and the Black College Sports Page ranking coming into the game. The Jaguars are riding a sevengame win streak.

East Division champ Alcorn State (9-3), no worse than fifth in any of the polls or rankings, is a former No. 1 this year who halfway thru the season looked to be the best and most dominant team in black college football. Losses to Grambling State and a season-ending loss to Jackson State removed some of that early season luster.

Bethune-Cookman, North Carolina A&T, Alcorn State, Winston-Salem State and Grambling State have taken turns as the No. 1 team this year. Southern emerged after each suffered late season losses.

The last loss for Southern was a 56-16 thrashing from Alcorn State back on September 27th. Southern played that game without several veterans including three starters in the defensive secondary and dangerous wide receiver Mike Jones.

The winner of Saturday‘s rematch will be my pick as the 2014 national champion.

The team with the better balance between run and pass will win.

ON THE HOOPS FRONTRobert Covington

Former Tennessee State and Ohio Valley Conference standout Robert Covington is straight ballin‘ for the NBA‘s Philadelphia 76ers.

Despite being named NBA D-League Rookie of the Year and winning the MVP award at last year‘s D-League All- Star game while playing for the Rio Grand Valley Vipers, Covington could not find a spot on the Houston Rockets roster this season. He was one of the last cuts by the Rockets in late October.

But on Nov. 1, he was the first pick in the 2014 D-League draft by the Grand Rapids Drive. Two weeks later before playing a game for the Drive, he was signed by the Sixers.

He played sub-20 minutes and recorded one double-figure scoring game (14 points) while the Sixers stumbled thru an eight-game losing streak, part of a record-tying 17-game slide to start the season.

But he came thru with 17 points in a season-high 31 minutes and made three fourth-quarter 3-pointers as the team broke the losing streak in an 85-77 win over Minnesota Wednesday.

He followed that up with 21 points in 28 minutes and three more 3s in a loss Friday to Oklahoma City.

The 6-9, 215-pounder is playing with an ease and flair showing that he belongs in the NBA.

© AZEEZ Communications

 

 

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