Grambling State will find itself in an unfamiliar position when the G-Men host Alabama State Saturday evening in a potential preview of the SWAC Championship Game
Grambling State will find itself in an unfamiliar position when the G-Men host Alabama State Saturday evening in a potential preview of the SWAC Championship Game.
Grambling, the preseason pick to win the West Division and the reigning conference champion, is 0-2 for the first time since Coach Doug Williams was quarterback for G-Men in 1976. That would seem to put Grambling in a must-win situation against Alabama State, the favorite to win the East Division crown and return to Birmingham, Ala., for the championship for the second time in three years.
Not so, says Williams.
“We don’t get into that,’’ says Williams, who led Grambling to an 8-3 record after the G-Men’s shaky start in 1976. “We don’t preach that. We preach the next week. What’s behind is behind.’’
Grambling opened the season with an upset loss to conference foe Alcorn State in the Port City Classic. They played up a division last week and suffered a 56-6 loss to TCU of the Football Ball Subdivision (FBS) as the Horned Frogs opened their new stadium.
This is the second consecutive year that the G-Men have gotten off to a slow start. They were 1-4 after five games in 2011 with a 31-17 loss to Alabama State. The G-Men ended the season with seven consecutive victories to claim the championship. That turnaround, not their 2012 record, is uppermost in Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow’s mind, and he expects Grambling to put forth a supreme effort.
“They’ll understand importance of game as we will,’’ he says. “All games are important, and this is a SWAC game. Last year they had struggles early. They showed perseverance. The race doesn’t go to swift or the strongest but the one who’s able to hold on. I wouldn’t say they’re in a desperate situation. But I’m sure they will have more of a sense of urgency to win this game.’’
Williams says Grambling season-ending run of a year has no bearing on how this year’s team will respond to its poor start.
“Some of the guys on last year’s team are not here,’’ he says. “This year it has a lot to do with the mindset of young guys. These guys a little younger than the guys were last year. These guys are wide-eyed and bushy tailed. I hope the last two weeks helped them grow up.’’
Regardless of which team wins, a December rematch in the conference championship game will be a strong possibility. Still neither coach is looking to make a statement or send a message in Saturday’s game.
“At the end of all this everybody has same goal,’’ Barlow says. “That’s to get to the championship game. It’s not so much trying to make a statement per se as wanting to play well in all three phases. We want to put a solid game together. That’s more or less the statement we want to make.’’
“This weekend is big for all the schools in SWAC,’’ Williams says, noting that Texas Southern, which is ineligible for the championship, is the only conference member that doesn’t have its sights sets on winning the conference title. “Everybody is trying to race for Birmingham. In order to win the race to Birmingham, you have to win.’’
Saturday’s game will feature an intriguing duel between running backs Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State and Dawrence Roberts of Grambling State.
Crowell, who transferred to Alabama State from the University of Georgia after being dismissed from the team following his arrest on a weapons charge, was the 2011 SEC Freshman of the Year and a bona fide talent. Dawrence, not as widely heralded as Crowell, led the SWAC in rushing last season with 1,102 yards.
However, this game could turn on the play of the team’s quarterback, Greg Jenkins for Alabama State – the preseason pick to win the SWAC East, and DJ Williams for defending conference champion and SWAC West favorite Grambling.
Neither quarterback has gotten off to a scintillating start this season. Jenkins has passed for 326 yards in two and hasn’t thrown a touchdown, and he has rushed for 111 yards. Williams has thrown for 152 yards with no touchdowns while completing 41.9% of his attempts.
Those numbers belie their impact on their respective offenses, though, and their coaches’ confidence in them.
“Greg is our quarterback,’’ Barlow says. “He’s playing well and fast. He gives us a great opportunity to be successful.’’
Doug Williams has an appreciation for Jenkins’ ability as a duel threat signal caller who can run and throw.
“Their quarterback is very talented in the offense that they run, the spread offense,’’ Williams says “They got two guys back there. He can hand it to Crowell, throw it or he can take off. It’s almost as worse as Oklahoma when they were running the triple option except they were pitching the ball backwards. He runs it to perfection. He poses the most problems from running. I’d love to see him say ‘I’m not running anymore.’’’
Jenkins has Alabama State’s offense at the top of the conference in scoring, averaging 28.5 points a game, and No. 3 in total yards with 324.0 a game.
Grambling, on the other hand, has been unable to get untracked offensively with DJ Williams, the coach’s son, at the helm. The Tigers have only scored 21 points. But Doug Williams says he seen improvement his played compared to last season when the younger Williams led Grambling to the conference championship as a freshman.
“DJ’s leadership has improved even though he hasn’t had great games,’’ Doug Williams says. “That has a lot to do with the people around him. “I’m not disappointed in our quarterback play. He has been under pressure and duress. The way see guys react to speaks volume.’’
Barlow says he is impressed with Williams’ play at quarterback despite the meager statistics he has accumulated this season.
“DJ has the pedigree, size and arm,’’ he says. “Having the opportunity to play for and win the SWAC championship as a freshman, not too many can say that in history of this conference. He’s a solid player, and he’s got good guys around him. The sky is the limit for him.’’
Morehouse (1-1) vs. Winston-Salem State (2-0), Cleveland Classic: Morehouse has made major strides since Rich Freeman took over as coach five years ago but the Maroon Tigers haven’t been able to establish themselves as topflight team. They can make a statement that they’re ready for prime time with a victory against the Rams, who are one of the top teams in Division II and the defending Black College National Champions. Winston-Salem is No. 8 in the D2Football.com Top 25 and No. 5 in the NCAA rankings. Morehouse received one vote in the most recent balloting and would almost certainly crack the top 25 with a victory. Morehouse relies on a powerful rushing attack, spearheaded by running back David Carter, the No. 5 ground gainer in Division II with 329 yards and 164.5 yards a game. The Maroon Tigers are No. 7 in Division II in rushing offense, averaging 316.0 yards. Winston-Salem is No. 10 in rushing defense. The Rams allow 48.5 yards a game and 2.06 yards a carry. Senior quarterback Kameron Smith, the Rams’ career leader with 4,647 yards, leads Winston-Salem’s offense. Maurice Lewis heads up the running game, averaging 114 yards a game, 24th-best in Division II. Winston-Salem has won 14 straight regular season games.
Bethune-Cookman (2-0) at Miami (1-1)
Delaware State (1-1) at Cincinnati (1-0)
Hampton (0-2, 0-0 MEAC) at Florida A&M (0-2, 0-0 MEAC)
Howard (1-1, 0-0 MEAC) at Norfolk State (2-0, 0-0 MEAC)
Morgan State (1-1) at Akron (0-2)
North Carolina Central (1-1) at Duke (1-1)
South Carolina State (1-1) at Arizona (2-0)
Virginia University of Lynchburg (0-2) at North Carolina A&T (1-1)
Ark.-Pine Bluff (1-1, 0-1 SWAC) at Alcorn State (1-1, 1-0 SWAC)
Jackson State (0-2, 0-0 SWAC) at Texas Southern (0-2, 0-0 SWAC)
Prairie View A&M (0-2, 0-0 SWAC) at Alabama A&M (2-0, 1-0 SWAC)
Benedict (0-2) at Virginia State (0-2)
Concordia (1-1) at Johnson C. Smith (0-2)
Edward Waters (1-2) at Livingstone (0-2)
Fairmont State (0-2) at Bowie (1-1
Saint Augustine’s (1-1) at Southern Conn. State (0-2)
Shorter (1-1) at Chowan (1-1)
Stillman (1-1) at Shaw (0-2)
Virginia Union (2-0, 0-0 CIAA) at Fayetteville State (0-2, 0-0 CIAA)
Kentucky State (0-1) at Lincoln (Pa.) (0-2)
Clark Atlanta (1-1, 1-0 SIAC) at Fort Valley State (1-1)
Lane (1-1, 1-0 SIAC) at Tuskegee (1-1, 1-0 SIAC)
Albany State (1-1) at Elizabeth City State (0-2)
Austin Peay (0-2) at Tennessee State (2-0)
C.W. Post(1-0) at Cheyney (1-1)
Langston (1-1) a Saint Xavier (2-0)
Missouri Southern (2-0) at Lincoln (Mo.) (0-2)
Texas College (0-3) at Hardin Simmons (0-2)
Urbana (2-0) at Central State (0-2)
West Va. State (1-1) at Elon (1-1)