By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Today in Houston, Alcorn State and Southern will be the final matchup of the HBCU football season as they square off in the SWAC Championship Game.
Both teams are 9-3 overall and are ranked in the Top 5 among SWAC offenses and defenses. But Alcorn State sports the conference's top overall offense and defense.
"He's been the leader of our offense since he got to Alcorn," Alcorn State head coach Jay Hopson told the Houston Chronicle. "He does a great job as our team leader and team captain."
The Braves also sport the nation's 20th best defense, spurred by defensive ends Jamil Cooks and Darien Moody and linebacker Corey Williams, a threesome that combined for 21 of Alcorn State's 39 sacks, good for second in the SWAC.
But third in sacks (38) is Southern, a team that has won seven straight games, going without a loss since Sept. 27. But that was a lopsided 56-16 loss to Alcorn State.
But Southern head coach Dawson Odums, whose team won the SWAC title last year in overtime, told the Jackson Clarion Ledger that the Jaguars they played then will be a different group of Jags that will show up in Houston, especially as a number of players who didn't play in that Sept. 27 game because of eligibility reasons have been back since then.
"I think after that game … I said if we can stay healthy and dodge the
bullets early and find ways to win, I think we'll be a different team
going down the stretch," Odums said. "We didn't
have that leadership in the locker room, and we played a lot of true
freshmen and that's helped us down the stretch."
Junior linebacker Demetrius Carter leads the Southern defense with 94 tackles and three sacks this season while defensive end Arthur Miley added 53 tackles and seven sacks for a defense that was extremely strong against the rush, but was in the SWAC's lower tier in pass defense.
On offense, Howard Austin (above) threw for 2,182 yards and 17 touchdowns while Lenard Tillery rushed for 1,141 and nine touchdowns. They also feature one of the nation's top wide recievers in Willie Quinn, who hauled in 56 passes for 833 yards and five touchdowns. Reggie Travis added 30 receptions for 514 yards and five TDs.
Kickoff at NRG Stadium in Houston is 3 p.m. central time. The game will be televised live on ESPNU.