Mississippi Valley State has been assured its 11th straight losing season, but the Delta Devils still have a chance to play spoiler.
MVSU (2-7, 1-4) heads to Lorman Saturday to play Alcorn State (6-3, 4-1), which needs a win to wrap up its fourth consecutive SWAC Eastern Division title.
“I am sure they will be coming out with blood in their eyes since they have a lot to play for,” said Rick Comegy, who is 0-3 against the Braves as the head coach at Valley. “It will be a rough battle down at Alcorn.”
And despite his team having been outscored 168-30 in the last three meetings, Comegy remains confident about Saturday’s contest.
“We’ve got a good enough team to win anywhere we go, but right we’re just not doing that,” said the Valley coach.
Three weeks ago, Alcorn State turned the ball over seven times in a 41-14 loss to Grambling State and then spent its bye week needing to recharge and reevaluate itself.
Well, mission accomplished. The Braves blasted Alabama A&M 47-22 last week to put themselves in position to again clinch the East.
“Our guy know what’s at stake,” Alcorn coach Fred McNair said. “I don’t have to mention it. All I have to do is get them focused to play a good Valley team.”
The play of MVSU quarterback Christian Fowler and wide receiver Quinn McElfresh have opened a lot of eyes around the SWAC. The freshman-to-freshman connection has been potent at times for the Delta Devils.
In last week’s 38-21 loss to Texas Southern, Fowler, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder out of Apache Junction, Ariz., threw for 313 yards and three touchdowns — all of which went to McElfresh.
“(Fowler) has been really coming on for a young quarterback,” Comegy said. “(McElfresh) should be in the mix for SWAC Newcomer of the Year with the way he is producing.”
McElfresh, a 6-2, 200-pound juco transfer from Brainerd, Minn., leads the SWAC in receptions and receiving yards, averaging 80.4 yards on 4.9 catches per game. Fowler ranks fourth in the league with 183 yards per game through the air, but the biggest problem for Valley is keeping him upright. The Delta Devils have allowed a league-high 46 sacks.
“We’ve got to protect better up front,” Comegy said. “We’re looking at changing some things up on how we do things.”
Alcorn ranks second in the SWAC in scoring offense with 31 points a game and is first in total offense (439 ypg) and rushing offense (232.2 ypg.). The ground attack is led by De’Lance Turner, who ranks first in the league with 112 yards per contest.
Against A&M, P.J. Simmons ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns and was part of a trio of rushers topping 100 yards for Alcorn State. Backup quarterback Noah Johnson had seven carries for 124 yards and two scores, and Turner had 11 rushes for 113 yards and a score.
The three combined for 410 yards rushing on 27 carries to average 15.2 yards a carry.
That doesn’t bode well for a Valley defense that ranks last in the conference in stopping the run. Opponents are averaging 275 yards per game on the ground.