The Grambling State Tigers came from behind to win one of the most exciting SWAC Championship Games in recent memory, beating the Alcorn State Braves, 27-20.
The Tigers came into the game undefeated in the SWAC. Their only loss during the season came at the hands of the Arizona Wildcats. The Braves only had five wins on the season, but because the SWAC has two divisions, they were able to punch their ticket to Toyota SWAC Championship Game. This was the third consecutive year that the Tigers and Braves have played in the SWAC Championship Game, with the Braves winning the two previous matchups.
The Braves got out to an early lead, after Braves’ quarterback Lenorris Footman found De’Lance Turner for a 57-yard completion down the sideline. Footman was able to find pay dirt on a quarterback keeper from the 15-yard line shortly thereafter, and the Braves found themselves in the lead, 7-0, at the end of the first quarter. On the first possession of the second quarter, the Braves’ Haiden McCraney extended their lead with a successful 27-yard field goal. The Braves would not be stopped in the first half, putting more points on the board during their next possession, with Turner taking the ball 69 yards for another Braves’ touchdown. With a 17-0 lead at halftime, the Tigers had to make some major adjustments to get back in the game, especially after the Braves led them in time of possession in the first half, 21 to 9 minutes.
“Everyone needs to look themselves in the mirror; we’ve been in this position,” Grambling State Coach Broderick Fobbs told his team at halftime.
The Tigers came out red hot in the third quarter, scoring on their first possession. Martez Carter returned the opening kickoff 73 yards to the Braves’ 25-yard line. Devante Kincade was able to find Verlan Hunter for a touchdown to finally get the Tigers on the board. The Tigers kept their scoring going on their next possession, after Kincade had two passes for over 30 yards on the drive – one to Hunter and the other to Chad Williams. After moving the ball successfully down the field, Lyndemian Brook ran the ball in for a one-yard touchdown, and the Braves only found themselves with a 17-14 lead at the end of the third quarter. The Braves could have extended their lead by 10 points, but a play that practically made the overall difference in the game, left many Braves fans scratching their heads and biting their fingernails. Braves’ tight end Michael Ajumobi dropped an absolute wide open pass for a touchdown near the end zone that could have practically sealed the game with a little less than 10 minutes in the ball game. The Braves were able to finally stop the bleeding and extend their lead over the Tigers, when McCraney converted on a 41-yard field goal to make the score 20-14. The Tigers were able to answer that field goal right back with a touchdown, however, after Kincade found Carter for a pass, and while he was on his way to scoring a touchdown, the ball was knocked loose by a Braves defensive player at the two-yard line. As luck would have it, the ball fell right in the hands of the Tigers’ Dominique Leake, who walked in for the touchdown. The extra point was blocked, however. Alcorn tried to make things interesting towards the end of the game, as they drove into Tigers’ territory, but were eventually stopped after the Tigers’ defense forced an incomplete pass on the final play of the game to secure the win.
“I was very thankful for Leake to be there at the right place at the right time,” said Carter.
With the win, the Tigers have punched a ticket to the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 in Atlanta, where they will play the North Carolina Central Eagles.
“It meant everything to me. Grambling was built by Eddie G. Robinson and he built it with championships,” said Coach Fobbs on the significance of the championship.
With the way this program has grown and is being built, the Tigers could definitely make it back to the SWAC Championship next year and for years to come.