Hill-Eley Leads Hornets to 3rd Straight Win
The Alabama State University football team won their third consecutive contest, spoiling the homecoming festivities for Jackson State University as they walked away with a 13-3 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) victory.
“There are a lot of things that we can get better at,” Alabama State interim head coach Donald Hill-Eley said. “But you are talking about three wins a row, two homecomings and a Classic. These guys want to play, where we are weak we are also strong. It is good to see, and this atmosphere will allow these guys to be successful in life, start down and build up.
“Those are the type of things we want to create with these young men, the bottom line is not how you start but how you finish. I put in front of them that this university was started by nine slaves, and if that is not enough to hang your hat on. If God can put it in front of you, there is nothing to stop you.”
The win was the third consecutive for Alabama State (3-5, 3-2 SWAC), and the second time they have spoiled homecoming festivities this season – the first coming against Texas Southern.
“I told the guys if you start losing homecoming then you will be someone’s homecoming,” Eley said. “I don’t think we will be able to break the float out next year.”
Alabama State jumped on top early with a pair of Hunter Hanson field goals in the first half, knocking home a 39-yard field goal with 1:03 remaining in the first quarter that gave the Hornets a 3-0 lead. He would add another later in the half, this one from 43 yards – a new career long – that gave the Hornets a 6-0 lead.
“It’s homecoming,” Eley said. “They are 1-7, but you are talking about homecoming. There were 30,000 people in there, and there were about 29,500 in there for Jackson State. Those guys wanted to play hard against somebody and we knew they were not just going to lay down, but we figured if we could get ahead of them and the fans started leaving that we could take their will.”
Jackson State (1-8, 1-4 SWAC) trimmed the lead to three on a field goal with 1:17 to play in the half, trimming the score to 6-3. The Hornets had a chance to score late in the half as they reached the 32-yard line of Jackson State; however, the pass from Darryl Pearson, Jr. was knocked out of bounds as the block went to zero.
The Hornets came out in the second half and took the opening kickoff 65 yards down the field against Jackson State. The 14-play drive ate up 6:31 on the clock, and Pearson put an end to it with 17-yard touchdown run with 8:29 to play in the quarter.
“We talked about it in the locker room and made some adjustments,” Eley said of the first drive of the second half. “Coach (Trey) Dunbar was able to put the ball in the right personnel’s hands and we put together a long drive. We started to see those guys get gassed against a big team. He was able to make the right calls against their personnel that ended in a score.”
The opportunistic Alabama State defense came up big again for the Hornets this week as they forced five turnovers, including four interceptions. Joshua Hill picked off a pair of passes on the day, returning them for 68 yards – including one that went down inside the Jackson State 30 yard line before it was called back for a penalty. Dennis Roberts IV and Robert Easterwood each intercepted a pass, while the Hornets also recovered a fumble.
The Hornets went for a fifth interception, but it was just out of the reach of Kurron Ramsey as the clock was winding down. As he missed it, Ramsey found the bushes just off the sideline and had to be helped out by teammates.
“Once the defense gets churning it’s tough,” Eley said. “We want to keep those yards on turnovers but we didn’t because we had too many penalties on them. Some of them were effort, but others were guys not doing what they were supposed to do.”
Jarkeith Ruffin finished the day with a team-high seven tackles, while Roberts had six for a Hornet defense that recorded four tackles for loss.
Pearson ran for a team-high 53 yards on nine carries – while adding 61 through the air, while George Golden added 46 yards on 13 carries. Robert Pritchett III also added 40 yards on six carries in the win.
The Hornets finished with 264 yards of total offense with 203 coming on the ground, while Jackson State was held to 203 yards – most of that coming in the fourth quarter.
Alabama State returns to action next week as they return home for the first time since October 5 when they will face defending SWAC champion, Grambling State. Kick is set for 2 pm at ASU Stadium and can be seen on the SWAC Digital Network.