PHOTO BY DAVID CAMPBELL/UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHER
The Alabama State University Hornets (3-2) capped off homecoming weekend with a 35-15 win over the University of Arkansas at Pine-Bluff Golden Lions (1-4).
The Hornets had a lot of questions going into this game. With the offensive coordinator Joe Blackwell being relieved of his duties earlier in the week, the Hornets offensive staff had to work together on the offensive scheme. The Hornets were also without their starting quarterback Ryan Nettles, who went down with an injury in the previous game. Freshman Myles Crawley would get the nod in this game for the first start of his career.
The offense played well in this game, despite all of these things going against them. With the defense and special teams setting the tone with a fumble recovery and blocked field goal attempt, respectively, the offense was given great field position. Crawley took advantage of it and connected with wide receiver Jeremiah Hixon for an 18-yard touchdown pass, putting the Hornets up 7-0 at the nine-minute mark.
After forcing a fumble earlier in the game, sophomore safety Irshaad Davis made a big hit on the Golden Lions’ quarterback Skyler Perry. The defense for the Hornets generated great penetration early on, and the Lions’ passing game struggled all day because of it. Their running game, on the other hand, was moving the chains with much more success. Running back, Kayvon Britten put the offense on his back and got his team all the way down to the two-yard line. They could not get in the endzone as the Hornets stood tall and stopped them on fourth down.
After trading the ball back and forth to start the second quarter, the Hornets’ special teams blocked another UAPB field goal attempt. That block gave the offense back the ball with even more momentum. Crawley threaded the needle on another touchdown throw to Hixon to give the Hornets a 14-0 lead. Hixon’s score was met with a roar from the ASU crowd and praise from the 1991 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championship team, who swarmed him in the endzone. ASU went into the half with a 14-0 lead after an interception by safety Jeffrey Scott in the endzone off a tipped pass by cornerback Naytron Culpepper.
The halftime show featured a battle of the bands between the Mighty Marching Hornets and the Marching Musical Machine of the Mid-South. ASU’s 1991 SWAC championship team was also inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. ASU unveiled a pair of banners that will hang in the rafters of ASU Stadium in honor of the team’s contributions.
The Lions opened up the second half speeding up the tempo on offense, attempting to get some type of rhythm going. They still could not get into the endzone and instead settled for a field goal. With the score now 14-3, the Hornets immediately responded with an eight-play drive for 85 yards. With the Hornets not having much success in the running game, Crawley delivered on passes to multiple receivers. He finished the drive off with a 43-yard pass to senior running back Ezra Gray, who sprinted down the sideline beating a Lions’ defender to the pylon. Now with a 21-3 lead, the Hornets put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat going into the final quarter.
The Hornet defense continued to get stops against the Lions’ offense. Crawley threw for his final touchdown with a 23-yard lob pass to freshman tight end E’Shawn Mayes for the first touchdown of his career. UAPB added two touchdown scores to trim down the lead in the fourth quarter. Junior defensive back Keenan Isaac scored the game’s final touchdown on an onside kick recovery for the first touchdown of his career for the final margin of 35-15.
Crawley finished the game, completing 20 of his 28 attempts and throwing for four touchdowns. He did have a pass tipped and picked off early in the first quarter as well.
Head coach Donald Hill-Eley was happy with his play, saying, “There were a couple of miscues there, but we will take it because they are fixable. But anytime you can take your second-string guy who hasn’t been getting a lot of reps, it just speaks about the talent and depth we have at that quarterback position.”
Hixon led the team in receiving yards with 112 yards in his second 100+ yards receiving game of the year. He also recorded two touchdowns, the most this season for him. He did all of this with just six receptions on the day. Davis led the defense in tackles with nine, including three tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Senior linebacker Nicholas Terry added six tackles with a tackle for loss.
Eley credited his offensive staff with this win, saying, “My hat must go off to that offensive staff. They came up with a great scheme and put it on paper…It shows that we are very capable and knowledgeable across the board.”
The Hornets look ahead to their first of four road games next week, as they take on the No. 1 team in the SWAC in Jackson State University for their homecoming on Oct. 16.