MOBILE, AL – The Alabama State University football team matched its season scoring high for a Southwestern Athletic Conference game, but was unable to overcome an explosive Southern University offense in a hard-fought 34-24 loss Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
The Hornets (4-6, 1-7 SWAC) snapped a four-game second half scoring drought with 11 points and shutout the league’s highest scoring offense in the fourth quarter. However, the Jaguars (6-3, 3-2) amassed 490 yards of offense including 384 in the air en route to their fourth straight win in the series.
A blocked punt and an interception by the ASU defense got the Hornets rolling early in the game. After holding Southern on its opening drive, Justin Wright blocked the punt and it was recovered by Jason Bruce at the SU 14-yard line. The Hornets capitalized on the play with a 30-yard field goal by Andrew Lyons.
On the first play of the next Jaguars drive, ASU linebacker Adrian Hardy grabbed his fifth interception of the season giving the Hornets the ball on the Southern 27-yard line. Chris Mitchell scampered around the left side for a four-yard touchdown run putting Bama State up 10-0.
“I was proud of our effort today,” said ASU head coach Reggie Barlow. “It was nice to get some scores early, but we knew that they were a very good offense with some really good playmakers, and that they would fight back and compete. Our defense fought hard for a long time but they have a lot of weapons and were finally able to make a few plays. We have one more game to go and we just need go get back to practice and get ready for that one.”
Southern got on the board with 3:51 left in the first quarter when Bryant Lee connected with Warren Matthews for an 18-yard touchdown pass. The Jaguars then marched 99 yards in six plays early in the second quarter to earn a 14-10 advantage. Lee and Juamorris Stewart combined on a 51-yard scoring strike to cap the drive.
ASU trimmed the deficit to a point, 14-13, with 6:52 remaining in the first half after a 19-yard field goal by Lyons.
Lee and Matthews paired up again for a five-yard scoring pass late in the quarter to give the Jaguars a 20-13 lead at halftime. Kynjee Cotton blocked Southern’s extra point attempt.
Nick Andrews returned the opening kick of the second half 56-yards putting the Hornets near scoring position. Lyons connected on his third field goal of the contest from 21-yards out pulling ASU closer, 20-16.
The high-powered Southern offense responded with a pair of touchdown drives. Lee finished off an 11-play, 80-yard drive with an 11-yard scoring run. SU converted a two-point conversion to take a 28-16 lead. The Jags’ quarterback then found Gary Hollimon for a 33-yard touchdown pass, his fourth of the game.
Refusing to quit, the Hornets rallied for a final touchdown with three minutes left in the contest. Mitchell found freshman T.C. McWilliams for a 13-yard scoring pass and then connected with Andrews for the two-point conversion setting the final score.
Southern moved the ball to the one-yard line in the closing in the waning seconds, but were stuffed twice at the goal line by the Hornets defense to end the game.
Lee, the preseason SWAC Player of the Year, led the way for the Jaguars completing 29 of 39 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Lee also rushed for 44 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Stewart finished with 131 yards on seven receptions and a touchdown.
Mitchell led the Hornets to 292 yards of total offense including an 18-for-32, 219 yard passing performance. It marked Mitchell’s fifth game with more than 200 yards passing this season. Tim Clark rushed for 36 yards in his first career start and also led the team with four receptions. Andrews finished with 65 yards receiving and also tallied 164 return yards.
Defensively, Rechard Johnson paced the team with a season-best 13 tackles including three for losses. Byron Powell recorded a career-high 10 stops while Cotton had a sack and three tackles for losses to go with his blocked kick.
Alabama State closes the 2009 season on Nov. 26 in the annual Turkey Day Classic against Tuskegee at Cramton Bowl. The game is set to kickoff at 3 p.m., and will be televised live by ESPNU.