The Grambling State Tigers’ 16-15 win over the Alabama A&M Bulldogs in the SWAC championship game was a microcosm of their season.
At the outset, freshman quarterback D.J. Williams struggled, completing just 2 of 12 passes for 21 yards and throwing one interception.
All-SWAC running back Dawrence Roberts wasn’t any better. The Alabama A&M defense held him to 25 yards on nine carries.
The Tigers’ defense couldn’t stop Bulldog running back Kaderius Lacey who toted the rock 17 times for 74 yards and a touchdown.
And to top it off Grambling was down 15-3 by the half.
The only thing the Tigers did right was keep the Bulldogs from converting on two PAT’s.
Little did we know that Doug Williams had his good friend Anthony Jones right where he wanted him.
“A&M basically controlled the first half. But I knew we were still in it,” Grambling coach Doug Williams said. “They let us hang around, we had an opportunity and we took advantage of it.”
To open the second half, the oft-erratic D.J. Williams heaved an 80-yard bomb to former intramural football star Mario Lewis to cut the 12-point deficit to one score. It was Grambling’s only offensive touchdown of the game, and the play made up most of the team’s 182 total yards.
After both teams’ punts and special teams gaffes for much of the third quarter, Tigers linebacker Jacarde Carter picked up a Bryan Nelson fumble and sprinted 69 yards to give Grambling a lead they would not relinquish.
A 16-0 run stunned the Bulldogs whose offense finished the game with four turnovers.
The final turnover was the back breaker for Alabama A&M, though.
Hobbled much of the day by a sprained left MCL sprain, quarterback Deaunte Mason — who went 16 for 26 for 183 yards and a touchdown — was picked off on fourth down late in the fourth quarter by SWAC co-Defensive Player of the Year Cliff Exama as the Bulldogs were driving for the potential game-winning score.
Yep, the conference championship game played out eerily similar to the Tigers season. Down, out and left for dead early. Then somehow getting off the floor and succeeding in the end. The road to the title wasn’t a smooth or pretty one.
But if you ask Williams, who now has won the school‘s six conference title since in the inception of the championship game, he would tell you that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
“When we were down early, we never quit,” Exama said, who was named the game‘s defensive MVP. “When something bad happens you just have to keep playing. You can’t blame anybody. You just pick your head up and keep playing. That’s what we did, and now we’re champions.”
Quote of the Week:
“Everybody out there knows who the better team is,” Alabama A&M tailback Kaderius Lacey said. “We just gave that game away.”
Player of the Week:
Grambling linebacker Jacarde Carter. His 69-yard game-winning fumble return touchdown in the fourth quarter helped the Tigers secure its sixth SWAC championship.
End of the Season Report Card:
Grambling State: A
After starting the season 1-4, the Tigers rallied to win the SWAC West and the conference championship.
Alabama A&M: B+
Although their season ended with a heart-breaking 16-15 loss in the SWAC championship game, the Bulldogs can take solace in bouncing back from 2-8 2010 season.
Jackson State: A
A few bounces of the ball here and there (some better clock management) and the Tigers would have gone unbeaten in 2011.
Last season was a complete disaster for the Jaguars under first-year head coach Stump Mitchell. While Southern didn’t win the division, they were one Bayou Classic win away from being tied for first-place.
Alabama State: B
With just a few weeks left in the regular season, it appeared the Hornets would represent the East Division in Birmingham. However, loses in two of their last three conference games eventually did in the Hornets.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: C
Not much was expected of the Golden Lions coming into the 2010 season. But for much of the season they were hovering around first place.
Alcorn State: F
Picked by many to win the SWAC East the Braves stumbled out of the gates and never recovered. It got so bad that sophomore quarterback Brandon Bridge was removed from the roster, and there were calls to remove head coach Melvin Spears.
Mississippi Valley State: D-
The Delta Devils don’t get an “F” because Karl Morgan’s bunch was competitive in nearly every game, including their lone win of the season versus Texas Southern
Prairie View: D
On Oct. 8, the Panthers were leading the SWAC West. Losing four of their last five to end the season killed any postseason hopes.
Texas Southern F:
What a difference a year made. The defending SWAC champions went 2-7 in league play and gave 73 points in their last four losses.