Alabama State represented the East Division in the 2010 SWAC Championship Game.
Tradition-rich Grambling State, which has won 21 SWAC championships, has almost as many conference titles as Alabama State has years in the league with 29.
And over the years, the G-Men have dominated the Hornets, winning the last four meetings and holding a 25-9 edge in the all-time series.
The Hornets will be out to end that dominance and solidify their hold on first place in the SWAC East Division Saturday when they host Grambling at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama.
“You want to be the best. You want to be tops in the conference,” Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow says. “The name (Grambling) speaks for itself. They’ve always been in it. Rarely has it been where they’re not in the top two in the conference. With their history and tradition, they’re like FBS schools that carry that name, like Alabama and Notre Dame. When you hear the name Grambling, the history and the tradition, they’re always outstanding. Beating them would mean a lot.”
Both teams are 1-0 in the SWAC and 1-1 overall. Grambling opened the season with a 21-14 conference win against Alcorn State while Alabama State defeated Mississippi Valley State 41-9. Both lost road games last weekend to FBS opponents, Alabama State to Eastern Michigan 14-7 and Grambling 35-7 to Louisiana-Monroe.
Grambling is the preseason pick to win the SWAC West after finishing second to Texas Southern a year ago. Alabama State represented the East Division in the 2010 SWAC Championship Game. The Hornets were picked to finish third in the preseason poll of conference coaches and Sports Information behind Jackson State and Alcorn. Jackson State is ineligible for the championship game, and Alcorn has gotten off to an 0-2 start in the conference. A win for Alabama State against Grambling would put the Hornets in the catbird seat in the East race.
“They’ve had two impressive games,” Grambling coach Doug Williams says. “That’s what concerns me. We only had a half of game. Their confidence level is up. We could be running into a trap. We’re picked to win conference, but there are a whole lot of booby traps along the way. What they’re trying to do is keep their winning ways. If they find a way to beat us, it’s a feather in their cap and gives them confidence.”
To get a victory, the Hornets will have to find a way to overcome Grambling’s highly regarded defense, which is led by linebacker Cliff Exama and end Jomarcus Savage, a transfer from Auburn.
“You win championships on defense,” Barlow says. “We have to match their intensity and speed. They do play with a lot of speed. I like watching people who play fast, not playing against them. They’re a solid team.”
This matchup could come down to a battle of quarterbacks – freshman D.J. Williams for Grambling and Troy University transfer Greg Jenkins for Alabama State.
Williams, coach Doug Williams’ son, has taken every snap this season. He was solid in the G-Men’s victory against Alcorn, completing 16 of 24 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. He tailed off against Louisiana-Monroe, completing 10 of 21 passes for 118 yards, and he was intercepted twice. He was also sacked six times.
“The last game, it was tough to grade him, the running game, receivers or anybody because of the opportunities we didn’t have to see some things,” Doug Williams says. “He did some good things when had opportunities. When he didn’t have opportunities, he was intercepted. He tried to force things.”