/Alcorn delivers for the original ‘Air McNair’

Alcorn delivers for the original ‘Air McNair’

The Braves led 16-14 at halftime. They scored 21 unanswered in the second period to win 35-16 over Jackson State, arch-rival in the rivalry known as the Soul Bowl. All in all, it was a great day to be an Alcorn Brave. This is exactly what Fred McNair, 47, has been doing for nearly his entire life. There was a Jack Spinks Marino Casem Stadium standing room-only crowd of 27,297 and hundreds upon hundreds more tailgating on this beautiful campus. Alcorn State was victorious over their arch-rivals, and SWAC Eastern Division champions for the third consecutive season. You also had Steve McNair’s older brother, one of the school’s greatest football players, lifting the division championship trophy above his head. Alcorn was heading to Houston for the SWAC Championship game, regardless of Saturday’s rivalry match. You can be assured that the ride to Houston will go much smoother and more fun with a 5-5 record, a win over JSU, than it would be at 4-6 and after a loss to JSU. If that had been the case, it would have been possible for the Braves bus to make the trip backwards. “Our guys never quit,” Fred McNair said. They have persevered through all the adversity. There have been so many injuries and so many things that went wrong. “I have to give it to my staff, the players, for sticking together and then putting everything together in the second quarter today.” This game turned out to be the kicker. Alcorn trailed by 16-14 at the end of the third quarter. However, LaDarrien Davies blocked a Jackson State kick. Muhammad Solom grabbed the ball and ran 59 yards down JSU’s sideline to score the winning goal. McNair was pleased with the blocked punt. It did not surprise him. McNair was pleased to block the punt, as the Braves had already blocked four punts this year. McNair stated, “That’s been going on all year.” McNair said, “We work on this all the time. It was only a matter time, but I really thought it was. Alcorn scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter while JSU’s defense crushed the JSU offensive line like water flowing through a sieve. Tony Hughes, Jackson State’s first-year coach, stated that once momentum was in their favor, they never got it back. Jackson State ran it 29 times for 51 yards, the most striking statistic. With De’Lance Turner as his leader, Alcorn ran the ball 47 times for 293 yard. Turner carried it 19 times, accumulating 129 yards and a touchdown. The result is predictable when one team wins the line. Hughes was not able to take the $100,000 pay cut to be a coach. Hughes’ Tigers went 3-8 after a frustrating season. You and I would, too. Trust me. The score was tied at 14, and Jackson State was moving in Alcorn territory. The Braves signaled for timeout to prepare their defense for a critical third down play. JSU was able to line up with 10 players, and an additional 11 on the field after the timeout. The Tigers were penalized because they delayed the game. JSU then let the play clock run to a point where Hughes had to call another timeout in order to avoid another delay penalty. He lost his headset. He grabbed his headset from his head and threw it. He tangled the wires so he grabbed it and flung them again. Then again. It worked. The headset failed. I’m assuming that Hughes will find a way to get out of the JSU slump and become a better head coach. Fred McNair may have had better days but it was Saturday afternoon, with the sun setting behind the stadium, and the Braves Band playing the “Alcorn Ode,” that made it hard to imagine a better day for Air McNair. Mississippi Today’s sports columnist is Rick Cleveland. Check out his columns as well as his Sports Daily blog. Reach Rick at rcleveland@mississippitoday.org.