Oct. 3, 2011 I declared the Grambling State Tigers season all but over.
Two days earlier they had just dropped a 31-23 decision to Prairie View A&M. It was the Tigers fourth straight loss. The program was sitting at an uncharacteristic 1-4 in last place in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division.
During the weekly SWAC coaches teleconference that Monday morning I brazenly asked head coach Doug Williams could he resign himself to the fact his team’s season was just about done.
There was soon a pregnant pause, a chuckle and then the former Super Bowl winning quarterback defiantly exclaimed:
“It’s (the season) not over. Being 1-4 is something that we are not used to. But we have six more games to play.”
Williams played the role of Moses as the only believer in the state of Louisiana that Grambling could make a run.
Of those final six games Grambling would go unbeaten to prove me wrong by advancing to the SWAC championship game next month with a dominate 36-12 win over Southern in the Bayou Classic.
The Tigers most defining win of the season, however, was a thrilling 26-23 victory 21 days ago at Jackson State who was at the time leading the pack in the black national championship race. The win not only got Grambling closer to first-place, but it knocked Jackson State out of contention for the national title.
“Early in the season, the ball wasn’t rolling our way, and that was the biggest part in the outcome, Grambling assistant Andre Robinson said earlier this month. “The reason we weren’t getting the ball to roll our way was because of some of the things we weren’t doing.”
With Prairie View and Arkansas-Pine Bluff going a combined 5-7 down the stretch, Saturday set the stage for Grambling to win the division and vault into the league championship game Dec. 10 in Birmingham, Ala., versus Alabama A&M.
One more test to meet — this time against in-state rival Southern — would complete one of the greatest in-season turnarounds in school history.
The 38th edition of the Bayou Classic was almost anticlimactic. D.J. Williams was brilliant against the Jaguars defense completing 11 of 17 passes for 174 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Dawrence Roberts, who assumed the full-time starting role midway through the year, battered the Southern defensive front 36 times for 195 yards and a score.
The defense held the Jaguars to 174 total yards, 2 of 11 on third down, -31 yards on the ground and collected two turnovers.
Grambling’s win was a dominate one.
“To be where we are now considering where we were after the first five games speaks volumes to their character,” Williams said after the game.
Quote of the Week:
“We have a lot of confidence where we are,” said head coach Doug Williams after clinching a spot in the SWAC title game.
Player of the Week:
Grambling State running back Dawrence Roberts for his 195-yard, one touchdown performance in the Bayou Classic win over Southern.
Week 13 Report Card:
Being outscored 26-6 in the second-half versus Grambling did in the Jaguars.
Grambling State: A
The Western Division champions outgained Southern 446-174.
Alabama State: A
The Hornets capped off a bittersweet season my making turkeys out of squeezing past Tuskegee on Thanksgiving.