Grambling State might have fallen to a SWAC worst 0-9 after losing 23-17 in overtime to Texas Southern Saturday, but that didn’t really matter much.
A tumultuous two weeks, which saw the players boycott their scheduled matchup against Jackson State due to an ongoing feud with school administrators, helped galvanized a community and the university, according to those associated with the football program.
“I think more than anything it’s unified this whole school,’’ said interim Tigers head coach Dennis Winston told The New Orleans Times-Picayune “Not only the squad but the whole university and all the alumni. We’re going to move forward with all this and you’re going to see the same effort every week.’’
That’s what football is supposed to do. Rally the public around that shared kinship that gives an identity to both the individual and the group. Hopefully the folks at Grambling watched the program take its first step in rebuilding a once proud entity.
With just four games left for Southern and a mere three contests remaining for Prairie View, the SWAC West is shaping up to come down to a dramatic conclusion.
The Jaguars had the opportunity to distance themselves from the second-place Panthers who lost 51-38 to Jackson State, but fell in overtime 44-38 to Alcorn State.
“We dug ourselves a big hole early,” coach Dawson Odums said. “They showed up on the offensive of the ball, and we had trouble stopping them. I thought their running back ran extremely hard. I thought their quarterback played pretty good. We did some things in the second half, but when you have to climb up hill like that, it’s just tough.”
The saving grace for the Jaguars is that a win in one of their final four games against Texas Southern, Clark-Atlanta, Alabama State and Grambling would probably secure their first division championship since 2004.
Why is there a sense that Alcorn State could legitimately win the SWAC East?
Even though Alcorn State sits in third-place behind Alabama State and Jackson State with three weeks left in their season, the Braves are probably the most equipped team to make a run after winning six of their last seven games.
Attempting to stifle the explosive offenses of Jackson State and Prairie View will be a tough task, but Alcorn State does boast the No. 13 ranked defense in the FCS, and leads the SWAC in scoring defense.
For the first time in a long time, the Braves have balance on offense led by senior Arnold Walker, who is the conference’s second-leading rusher (88.6 yards per game) and sophomore John Gibbs, who ranks No. 4 in the SWAC in passing efficiency (134.7) and No. 3 in touchdown passes with 13.
Of the three teams vying for a trip to Houston for the SWAC title game, Alcorn State has a point differential of +112 ; only Alabama State at +100 comes close, while Jackson State brings up the rear at just +21.
The final week of the regular season that pits Alcorn State against Jackson State could have more than just state bragging rights on the line.