NATCHITOCHES, La. â€“ Several missed opportunities spelled doom for Grambling State as Northwestern State managed to protect its home turf with a 31-19 win at Turpin Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Demons took the opening drive 56 yards in six plays for an early 6-0 lead. After two stalled offensive possessions by Grambling that only netted four yards total in addition to a misfired fake punt, NSU took advantage of the short field position and moved ahead 10-0 after a 32-yard field goal attempt by Robert Weeks with 7:02 left in the first quarter.
In similar fashion to GSU’s past two contests, the defense set the tone as cornerback Kenneth Anio recovered a NSU fumble and returned it 33 yards for GSU’s first touchdown of the afternoon. Luis Leal’s PAT was good and the Tigers trailed 10-7 at the 13:59 mark in the second quarter. The Demons immediately struck back on their following possession and marched down the field in nine plays to move ahead 16-7 after quarterback John Hundley eluded several GSU defenders en route to a 9-yard rush.
Both teams traded punts over the next few possessions as the contest turned back into a defensive battle. However, GSU finally began to find its offensive stride late in the half as sophomore quarterback J.P. Tillman connected with Nick Lewis for a 36-yard completion on the opening play with less than 40 ticks remaining. On the very next play, redshirt freshman Kenneth Batiste moved GSU to Northwestern’s 11 after a 9-yard rush and Tillman took advantage as he connected with Kiare Thompson for an 11-yard strike with 14 seconds left. Leal’s PAT was blocked but the Tigers went into the locker room full of momentum as they trailed 17-13.
` Defense was the name of the game once again as the third quarter got underway due to the fact that each team punted twice midway through the period. And once again, the Tiger defense set things up perfectly for the offense at the end of the quarter as Bruna’ Foster intercepted a Hundley pass and returned it 19 yards to the Grambling 45.
Grambling’s passing attack began to click at the beginning of the fourth quarter as Tillman completed 3-of-4 passes for 35 yards. Sophomore running back Frank Warren gained the majority of the yards as he caught a Tillman pass on 4th-and-1 to move GSU to Northwestern’s 17. The Tigers eventually made their way to the Demons’ 1 yard line but watched a prime opportunity go to waste as Northwestern State completed a goalline stand on third and fourth downs.
With momentum on their side, Northwestern State took over nine minutes off the clock and marched 99 yards in 16 plays to up its lead to 24-13 with three minutes left. But once again, Grambling fought back and kept things interesting as Desmond Lenard returned the kickoff 51 yards to the Northwestern State 39. In a matter of seconds, Tillman struck paydirt with senior Nick Lewis as the duo connected on a 38-yard touchdown reception to draw the Tigers back within five at 24-19. With GSU needing the two-point conversion to draw within a field goal, Northwestern State held its ground and stopped Warren several yards from the endzone to stay ahead by five.
Northwestern State’s Sterling Endsley rushed for 25 yards on three carries to move the Demons deep into GSU territory as time ticked down on the ensuing possession. William Griffin finished it off with a 14-yard scoring run and put the game out of reach as Northwestern State evened the overall series with Grambling at 1-1.
For the game, GSU netted 268 (169 R, 99 R) total yards to NSU’s 327 (170 R, 157 P). Cornelius Walker led all GSU rushers on the ground with 67 yards on 13 carries while Tillman threw for 169 yards on 15-of-30 passing. Lewis had his best game to this point with 82 yards on five receptions while Anio and linebacker Keefe Hall both tied for the team lead defensively in tackles with 11 each.
GSU hits the gridiron next weekend with a showdown against Jackson State at home on Saturday, Sept. 20. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Robinson Stadium.
- Grambling drops to 1-5 all-time against teams from the Southland Conference.
- GSU drops two games in September for the first time since 2006.
- Sunday’s game marked the first time all season the Tiger coaching elected to stick with one quarterback.
- Redshirt freshman Bruna’ Foster caught his 3rd interception of the year.
- GSU’s 268 offensive yards marked a season high.
- Nick Lewis had career highs in both receptions and yards with five receptions for 82 yards.