Alcorn, Grambling clash for SWAC football title

Alcorn football coach Fred McNair
Alcorn football coach Fred McNair Associated Press

Grambling stands in the way of Alcorn State winning a third straight SWAC football championship.

The Braves (5-5) and Tigers (9-1) collide in the SWAC title game at 3 p.m. Saturday at Houston’s NRG Stadium. ESPNU will televise the matchup. A berth in the Dec. 17 Celebration Bowl awaits the winner.

“We're real excited about playing for another SWAC Championship,” Braves coach Fred McNair said. “It's a good matchup. We're getting better. We've got to put our kids in position to make plays, especially when the game's close.”

Grambling hammered Alcorn 43-18 on Sept. 24 at Eddie Robinson Stadium, en-route to an unbeaten 9-0 SWAC slate. Braves quarterback Lenorris Footman was injured against the Tigers. Grambling, which boasts a top-five FCS scoring defense, also held Alcorn to a season-low 168 yards rushing.

“We left some stuff out on the table against Grambling,” McNair said. “We made some critical mistakes. We just have to not make those mistakes. I think we’ve got a lot better since that first game.”

McNair said Friday Footman is a game-time decision. If Footman can’t go, Alcorn’s in good hands with Noah Johnson. The freshman has thrown for 1,116 yards and 11 touchdowns. He’s also rushed for 440 yards and 10 more scores.

Alcorn running back De'Lance Turner likes the Braves’ chances. Alcorn has never lost in the SWAC title game.

“We have been really in the O-Line's ear, telling them that when they play hard no one can mess with them,” Turner said.

Defense will be the key to Alcorn’s hopes for an upset. Grambling averages 44 points a game, fifth among FCS schools. Quarterback Devante Kincade has thrown for 2,633 yards and 28 touchdowns, with only three interceptions. His favorite target is Chad Williams, who has 80 receptions for 1,191 yards and 10 TDs.

Grambling is the only team to win three straight SWAC title games, accomplishing the feat from 1999 to 2001. Grambling safety Guy Stallworth is a Gulfport native.

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones

SWAC Championship Game

Who: Alcorn State vs. Grambling

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: NRG Staduim, Houston