Offensive Most Valuable Player Greg Jenkins accounted for 276 yards and two touchdowns, while defensive MVP Jimmy Daniels made two sacks and three tackles for loss and was a disruptive force as Alabama State (5-3, 5-2) beat the Bulldogs for the second time in three years.
“We had another opportunity to come and play in this great classic,” head coach Reggie Barlow said. “For our players to show and play the way they did, we’re excited for them. We had a lot of adversity this week. We had two players on our team lose their parents. (Artis Sullivan) lost his dad on Tuesday; Trei Mitchell’s mom passed on Wednesday. So our guys have been going through it, and I’m just happy with the way they fought and stayed into it, and happy to get the win.”
Alabama State scored on its first two possessions to open the game. Bobby Wenzig’s season-long 46-yard field goal put the Hornets ahead 3-0 less than five minutes in the game.
On ASU’s next offensive play, Greg Jenkins hit a streaking DeMario Bell on a 62-yard catch-and-run for touchdown to extend the Hornets’ lead to 10-0 with 7:30 to play in the first quarter.
After Alabama A&M (6-2, 5-2) scored a pair of touchdowns to take a 13-6 lead early in the second quarter, the Hornets responded with a pair of touchdowns of their own prior to halftime. A season-long 15-play, 93-yard, 6:40 drive ended with the first of two Isaiah Crowell touchdown runs to put Alabama State ahead for good at 17-13 midway through the period.
On the Hornets’ final possession of the half, a career-long 57-yard reception by Landon Jones set up Jenkins’ nine-yard scoring run to give Alabama State a 24-13 lead at intermission.
The defense limited Alabama A&M to 232 total yards, and held the second-ranked scoring offense to more than 15 points and 150 yards below its season average.
“It’s a great feeling,” Daniels said, who also made four tackles, and had one pass breakup on his stats line. “I came out and played well. I want to congratulate my team. They helped me win this award. They made a lot of plays, and I made most of the tackles, and that’s a part of being a team.”
ASU extend the lead on its opening drive of the second half. T.C. McWilliams’ career-long 57-yard reception led to Jenkins’ three-yard TD run two plays later to put the Hornets ahead 31-13 with just over 12 minutes to play in the third quarter.
“I just want to thank God and thank the coaches and my teammates for believing in me and all times through the good and the bad,” Jenkins said, who completed 10 of 15 passes for 264 yards with one touchdown and one interception and also had a rushing touchdown. “This is a great win for Alabama State. The offensive and defensive lines dominated up front, and that made it easy on everyone.”
Alabama State gained 419 yards for the second consecutive game and improved to 35-5 since 2003 when scoring at least 30 points. The Hornet defense held AAMU to just 29 rushing yards, the lowest by the Bulldogs since 2007.
“Our guys just kept playing the whole time,” Barlow said. “Whatever their responsibilities were, they played them. That was the key thing. Everyone stepped up and played big for us.”
Alabama State returns to action next Saturday at Prairie View A&M at 1 p.m.