ITTA BENA, Mississippi — Defense was the key.
Special teams were the key.
And freshman Harvey Harris rushed for 109 yards Saturday as Alabama A&M defeated Mississippi Valley State 42-20.
Anthony Lanier had eight tackles, two and a half sacks and four tackles for loss and Byran Bowers had eight tackles, two and a half sacks and two tackles for loss to pace the Bulldogs who improved to 1-1 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and 2-3 overall.
The Bulldogs also picked off two Valley passes, one in the Delta Devils’ endzone for a touchdown.
Freshman Octayvius Miles led the special teams play with a school-record 100-yard kickoff return which opened the second half and lifted A&M to a 28-6 lead.
The Bulldogs, though, started slowly as Valley jumped on the scoreboard first as quarterback Quantavius Peterson rushed for a 37-yard touchdown run.
Valley tried for two-point conversion but the run failed.
The Bulldogs settled into their offense, starting on their on 29-yard line.
The Bulldogs pushed the ball down the field when Harris broke free up the middle to score on a 37-yard touchdown, capping the eight-play, 74-yard scoring drive.
Valley’s ensuing play wasn’t what they expected deep in their own territory. Peterson’s pass was intercepted by Germain Calmes in the endzone giving the Bulldogs the 14-6 lead.
The Bulldogs got the ball back and Brandon Eldemire rushed into the end zone for a four-yard scamper, with 1:40 left in the half and a 21-6 lead.
Miles’ kickoff return to open the half broke the school record set by Ulysses Banks in 2006. A&M led 28-6 after that return.
The team traded touchdowns the rest of the way with Harris scoring on a 1-yard run and Kalias Robertson taking a 55-yard touchdown pass from Jaymason Lee with 6:53 left in the game.
The 42 points was the most scored by A&M this season, most points scored this season by A&M.
The Bulldogs host Grambling State on Saturday in their first home game of the season. It is also Homecoming and the Louis Crews Classic. Game Time is set for 2 p.m.