New Alcorn State coach Hopson wants to keep Braves on even keel after upsetting Grambling
You can’t get too high or get too low or this game will kill you.” jay hopson, Alcorn State coach
Jay Hopson would be an awful promoter.
The first year Alcorn State coach — who will forever carry the label of being the first white head football coach in the Southwestern Athletic Conference — doesn’t spend much time worrying about hype or historical significance.
He met most inquiries about his status as a trailblazer with an attitude of “I’m just a football coach,” so it should come as no surprise that he isn’t thumping his chest about winning his first game at ASU.
That first win, by the way, came against defending SWAC champion Grambling, whom the Braves upset 22-21 in the Port City Classic on Saturday.
“That’s the beautiful thing about football: Every week is different,” Hopson said on the SWAC coaches teleconference Monday. “It’s a life of highs and lows and ups and downs, and I’m one of those guys that’s kind of even-keeled. You can’t get too high or get too low or this game will kill you.”
Saturday was definitely one of those highs for Alcorn, which came back from a 21-9 deficit by scoring 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
Nearly half the team’s offense came in the final period, when the Braves marched down the field on drives of 84 and 64 yards, both of which ended on short touchdown runs by quarterback Darius Smith. Smith’s second came with 1:33 left on the clock, giving Alcorn its first win over Grambling since 2006.
Given the facts that the Tigers entered the year as overwhelming favorites in the SWAC West, the Braves were picked fourth in the SWAC East and Hopson wasn’t hired until May, it was a big upset. But, as you’d expect, Hopson didn’t spend much time celebrating.
“We’re excited to get the ‘W,’ but we know it’s a long season,” he said. “I said going into this week that this isn’t about a one-week progression or a one-week game. We as a football team have to do a lot of things better. … We have to get rid of some of the sloppy things we did.”
Those things included giving up 356 rushing yards for a sky-high average of 10.2 yards per carry, an issue that wasn’t stopped after GSU running back Dawrence Roberts (121 yards) left the game with cramps and was replaced by Jeremy Runner (166 yards).
The task won’t be any easier this weekend, when Alcorn travels to James Madison to face a team that piled up 377 rushing yards (602 total) in a 55-7 win against St. Francis.
Making matters worse, to get to Virginia, the Braves will have to take a 15-hour bus trip, with a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call on Friday.
Asked if the James Madison contest had been scheduled when he took the job and how much it would pay, Hopson came back with a little humor: “No, and not enough.”
But outside of that, he stuck to his tried-and-true game plan. Don’t get too high, and don’t get too low.
“We have a long ride ahead of us,” Hopson said. “That’s just part of it. We can’t worry about it, just attack that adversity head on.”