High-scoring Grambling, Alcorn State rev up for SWAC showdown
(STATS) - The last time Alcorn State hosted Grambling State, the Braves were one of the worst teams in the SWAC and the Tigers ended up as conference champions with a national ranking to boot.
Eight years later, Alcorn is at the top of the heap and Grambling will finally be back at Jack Spinks Stadium, which expects a sellout for the conference's division leaders.
The season's most highly anticipated SWAC matchup is here, and one of these teams' four-game win streaks will come to an end Saturday.
Grambling clobbered Alcorn State 31-10 to open 2007, scoring the first 24 points and enjoying a 479-228 edge in total yards. The Braves were one of the SWAC's also-rans back then and finished 2-8, while the Tigers ended up ranked 24th and went 8-1 in league play.
Now the tide has turned, with Alcorn State (4-1, 3-0) the defending league champion. Grambling (4-2, 4-0) has made vast strides from a 1-10 campaign two seasons ago and averages 44.5 points to lead the conference.
Although the Braves won it all last year, they suffered a 28-21 defeat at Grambling and are likely looking for a little payback.
"It's going to be a fun game, it really is," Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson said. "There will be a great atmosphere here on our campus, of course they got us last year."
The reason Grambling has not visited Alcorn in some time is that the Tigers hosted matchups in 2008 and 2010 before the teams met at neutral sites the next three years.
The series returned to campus last year, though Tigers coach Broderick Fobbs says his team won't be intimidated by the hostile Alcorn State crowd in a matchup of teams favored to meet in the SWAC championship Dec. 5.
"It's not about the climate, it's not about the bells and whistles, it's about what goes on in between those lines and how you play with your proper technique and do things the right way," Fobbs said.
Grambling has scored 200 points in its unbeaten conference start and Alcorn has put up 187 during its win streak. The Braves had last weekend off after a 61-14 rout of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 3, while the Tigers cruised past Alabama A&M 37-14 last Saturday.
The big story is how signal-callers John Gibbs and Johnathan Williams will fare.
Alcorn's Gibbs was the preseason SWAC player of the year, but his numbers are a bit down with six TD passes after he threw for 21 a season ago.
Williams took his lumps in Grambling's one-win seasons in 2012 and 2013, but he's shown vast improvement and has thrown for 20 touchdowns and run for three more this year in helping restore the roar for the once-proud program.
"Just a multi-talented young man," Hopson said. "He's a guy that throws the ball well, runs the ball well. Certainly he's the catalyst for those guys."
Williams ran for two scores and threw for another in last year's win over Alcorn. Both quarterbacks were shaky, failing to complete 50 percent of their passes.
Martez Carter emerged with a career-high 123 yards rushing and ranks third in the SWAC with 79.3 per game. Alcorn's Darryan Ragsdale is first with an average of 86.6.
Both clubs need to cut down on some sloppy play. Grambling averages 82.7 penalty yards for the conference's third-highest total with Alcorn State second-worst at 103.2. The Tigers are also tied for the league's most turnovers with 16, while the Braves have lost the most fumbles with 10.
Taking care of the football was the primary focus for Alcorn during its off week.
"It's always a good time to have a bye week to get some fundamental stuff taken care off," Hopson said. "Hopefully we did that."