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Alabama A&M could be at season's tipping point
After back-to-back losses to start the season followed by two consecutive victories, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs have reached a potential tipping point with Saturday’s game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
“We’re on that seesaw right now where we could teeter either way,” A&M coach Anthony Jones said. “We know what it took to win these two games in a row, and we also know what happened when we lost two in a row. So we have to be focused and ready to play. If we’re not prepared, we can fall off anytime.”
The Bulldogs (2-2, 1-1 SWAC) need a victory to keep up with East Division-leading Alabama State. Arkansas Pine-Bluff (3-1, 2-0) has won three straight since a season-opening loss to Langston and leads the West.
A&M is coming off a 20-14 victory over Grambling State. Jones was upset that his team blew a 14-0 fourth-quarter lead and needed a touchdown with 49 seconds left to pull out the win. The game was reminiscent of the Bulldogs’ season-opener, in which they led Hampton 17-0 at halftime but wound up losing 21-20.
“We have to realize that the game is never over. Whether you’re up or down, the game is never over as long as there’s still time on the clock,” Jones said. “We had a whole quarter of football left (against Grambling).
“We have an extremely young team, and when you’re dealing with young guys and you lose hold of momentum, it kind of shocks everybody. But we didn’t panic, which was the great thing. We knew we’d been down this road before. We made some plays across the board that gave us a chance to win.”
The winning touchdown against Grambling came on a 2-yard run by Kaderius Lacey, who finished with 178 yards rushing and was named the SWAC offensive player of the week.
“He’s had some good games for us, but that was by far his career best,” Jones said.
Alabama State vs. Alcorn State, 7 p.m.
Alabama State (3-1, 3-0 SWAC) will look to avoid a letdown after picking up consecutive victories over the preseason favorites to win the conference’s East and West divisions, Jackson State and Grambling.
The Hornets are now ranked third in the HBCU national poll and have a 1 1/2-game lead in the East.
Alcorn State (1-3, 1-3) is led by sophomore quarterback Brandon Bridge, who passed for 225 yards and had a 57-yard touchdown run in the Braves’ 41-21 victory over ASU last season.
Jacksonville State at Murray State, 6 p.m.
The top two teams in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason polls meet when Jacksonville State (3-1, 2-0) takes on Murray State (2-2, 1-1). JSU has won seven consecutive games in the series with the Racers, including a 40-34 victory last year.
Murray State is averaging 464 yards of total offense, with quarterback Casey Brockman throwing for 306 yards per game. But the Racers also allowed 48 points last week in a loss to Tennessee-Martin.
Georgia transfer Washaun Ealey was named the OVC newcomer of the week after rushing for 155 yards for the Gamecocks last week, while Coty Blanchard had two punts downed inside the 6-yard line to earn co-specialist of the week honors.
Samford vs. Gardner-Webb, 2 p.m.
The Samford Bulldogs (1-2) are taking on a Gardner-Webb team that scored a total of only eight points in losses to FBS opponents Ohio and Wake Forest.
Samford coach Pat Sullivan said he expects to see the team that opened with a win over Brevard.
“The first thing you see with Gardner-Webb is the quality of athletes they have,” Sullivan said. “They have speed. I’m not sure that their skilled athletes aren’t more skilled than what we just played at Wofford. Defensively, they come from everywhere. We have our work cut out for us.”
The Bulldogs will wear throwback red jerseys in honor of the 1991 Samford team that went 12-2 and made it to the semifinals of the NCAA playoffs. Members of that team will be honored at halftime.