MONTGOMERY – Alabama State used a 370-yard rushing night to help defeat Mississippi Valley State 47-22 to open Southwestern Athletic Conference play.
“Tonight’s game was another opportunity to play at home in front of our fans in our wonderful new stadium,” Head Coach Reggie Barlow said. “Our coaches did a wonderful job of prepping our young men for this game. They had a good game plan in all three phases. Of course the student-athletes took it and really took ownership of it and played well for us tonight.”
“We knew opening up this was SWAC play. We have been talking about preseason is over and it’s an opportunity to be 1-and-oh in the East (Division) against a Mississippi Valley team that we knew would come in and fight and play hard against us. So we’re excited and happy we picked up the victory. We can put this one behind us now and start focusing on the next one.”
Senior Malcolm Cyrus once again hit the 170 yards rushing mark when he rushed for a season-high 171 yards rushing, besting last week’s total of 170 yards. He also scored from eight yards out, marking his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Cyrus’ rushing total now gives him 424 yards rushing on the season and pushes his career rushing total to 1,665 yards, eighth all-time at Alabama State.
“The offense played very well tonight and the line blocked very good,” Cyrus said. “We executed everything we needed to execute. I can’t take the credit for the rushing yardage. Everybody ran good; the quarterbacks and all the running backs. You have to give the boys up front credit they played their butts off.”
Cyrus was not the only person to have a big night rushing the ball as Khalid Thomas set a career-high with 98 yards, also scoring a touchdown. Thomas also turned in a huge night on punt returns, returning five punts for 133 yards, averaging 33.2 yards per return.
The Hornets (2-1/1-0 SWAC) finished with 539 yards of total offense, as ASU threw for 169 yards, led by Daniel Duhart who completed 10 of his 21 attempts for 143 yards and a touchdown.
DeMario Bell led the receivers with 60 yards and a score on four receptions, his 19-yard reception on the Hornets first possession gave ASU the early 7-0 lead.
“We have a lot of respect for Valley and Coach Comegy and Coach Hayes the “D” coordinator over there,” Barlow said. “We knew they would play us pretty good. I think there was some missed opportunities, we had a couple of drops there and I think Duhart missed on a couple of balls. The wind was kind of tricky out there today and he missed on a couple of them that he would actually make on those throws.”
The Hornets defense held MVSU to only 41 yards rushing on 35 attempts, but once again gave up over 300 yards in the air. Most of that yardage came in the second half as the Hornets had their backups in midway through the third quarter as MVSU had 180 passing yards in the second half, while still struggling with only 14 rushing yards
MVSU (1-2/0-1 SWAC) used four quarterbacks in the game, completing 19 of their 34 attempts for 318 yards and two scores. Patrick Ivy entered the game late in the third quarter and threw for 171 yards on seven-of-12 passing and two scores.
ASU outscored MVSU 17-14 in the second half, playing mostly backups from early in the third quarter on. O.T. Toppings came in to run the Hornets offense and rushed for his first career touchdown on a one yard run for the only score of the third quarter.
MVSU scored back-to-back touchdowns to start the fourth quarter on a pass play to Julian Stafford, who finished the game with 222 receiving yards for MVSU. The second score came on another pass, this one to Trey Ford from 46 yards out. That would give the Delta Devils hope making the score 37-22, but that would be all the scoring they would do.
“We have set the tone for people to throw the ball on us, I mean we have given up a lot in the passing game,” Barlow said. “In the secondary it is about training your eyes. We talk about with our safeties you will never make a tackle for a loss unless you are on a blitz and if they can use that mindset of we have to be deeper than the deepest and wider than the widest then we will have the opportunity to stop folks.”
ASU put the game out of reach with Thomas’ eight yard run and Adam Shepherd’s 37 yard field goal, his first of the season, to make the final 47-22.
Daerius Washington led the Hornets defense with 10 tackles. Kourtney Berry had another big game with seven total stops. He added 1.5 tackles for loss and also picked up a blocked punt that was picked up and fumbled by MVSU’s punter. Berry returned the blocked kick 18 yards for a score late in the first quarter.
“We had a great week of preparation,” Berry said. “Our defensive backs coach Dexter Jackson always tells us preparation plus opportunity equals success. The guys went out the whole week and made sure they knew exactly what was going on.”
“Of course they got rolling in the second half but we made a little adjustment that we needed to and it wasn’t that much of an adjustment. We just needed to do our job and play football.”
The first half was a half of missed opportunities for the Hornets, but it started well enough as ASU took the opening kick and traveled 79 yards in five plays for the opening score. The final play was a 19 yard pass from Duhart to Bell for a quick 7-0 lead after only 1:26.
MVSU came right back down the field to score on a DeShawn Davis four yard run, but the Hornets blocked the extra point and led 7-6.
ASU pushed the lead out to 10-6 on a Clark season and career-long 44 yard field goal. ASU went on to lead 16-6 on Berry’s scoop and score on the blocked. MVSU returned the favor when they blocked the extra point and returned it for two points.
Neither team got much going in the second quarter, but the Hornets finally pushed the ball over the goal line to score two times in the final two minutes. The first came on a two-yard plunge from Duhart with just over two minutes left. After three incompletions from the Delta Devils and a long punt return from Thomas, the Hornets scored again when Cyrus went over from eight yards out with a minute left in the first half to lead 30-8 at halftime.
The Hornets will have a short week of work as they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff in a Thursday night game, Sept. 18 at 6:30 p.m. The game will be shown live on ESPNU.
Courtesy: Alabama State Sports Information