We haven’t been successful at all against them,” Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones says. “But we’re not going to think about what happened in the past.
Alabama A&M returns to its house of horrors Saturday when the Bulldogs play Grambling State Saturday at Robinson Memorial Stadium.
The Bulldogs have never won at Grambling. Additionally, they haven’t had a lot of luck against the G-Men regardless of where the teams have played; Grambling leads the all-time series 14-3.
“We haven’t been successful at all against them,” Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones says. “But we’re not going to think about what happened in the past. We’re trying to move forward and prepare for the future. Grambling has a lot of history. They have a lot of good teams. This year is no exception. We’ve played them tough, but the score doesn’t reveal that. We’ve got to prepare hard and play hard. This game will stand on this game. You can’t bring in points scored in game past. But if don’t play well we’ll lose.”
This is a crucial game for both teams. Each has a conference a loss. Alabama A&M started the season 0-2, including a SWAC loss to Southern. The Bulldogs are coming off a 21-6 nonconference victory against Tuskegee and needs a win to keep in striking distance of Alabama State, which is first in the SWAC East with a 2-0 conference record.
Grambling, the preseason pick to win the West Division title, lost to Alabama State 31-17 Saturday. The G-Men only generated 177 yards total offense. Jones, however, doesn’t expect a similar performance from this week.
“They may have made a few mistakes, but I know those mistakes will be corrected,” he says. “That’s the kind of coach Doug (Williams) is. One of things about playing a good team is that after they have a disappointing loss, they will bring their best. If we don’t bring our best, this thing will continue.”
The Grambling mystique can be distracting and make it difficult for opposing teams to bring their best when they play at Robinson.
Grambling is among the most storied football programs in college football, let alone the SWAC, and has a certain mystique. It has produced legions of Hall of Famers, All-Americans and All-Conference and NFL players; Eddie Robinson – for whom the G-Men’s stadium is named – is number four among coaches on the all-time college football winning list.
Jones, however, says current Grambling players such as All-SWAC linebacker Cliff Exama are more worrisome for him than the G-Men’s greats of the past such as James Harris, Everson Walls, Tank Younger, Buck Buchanan, Charlie Joiner and Ernie Ladd.
“You can have history, but the ghosts won’t come out and play,” Jones says. “It’s the players who put a whuppin’ on you, and we’ve got to play good team this year.”
Jones does acknowledge that the atmosphere at Robinson Stadium makes playing there a challenge for visiting teams.
“I’m not one who is easily intimated,” he says. “When you go down there in that bowl, it’s like a gladiator arena. They close the gates on you, and the next thing you know, you don’t have lot of people supporting you. The fans get loud, and the players get physical. We’re not the only ones who haven’t had success at Grambling. They don’t lose many games at home. That’s a tough place to play.”
It could be especially tough for a team that is in Alabama A&M position. The Bulldogs are still searching for consistency, particularly on offense. They have yet to score more than 21 points in a game this season. But Jones says the Bulldogs made strides in their victory against Tuskegee.
“As a whole, we played closer to 60 minutes,” Jones says. “We’re still not at 60 minutes. We played a more complete game, but we’re still not there. Offensively, we’re not explosive in the passing. We’re gong to have to step up to another level to make this thing work.”