Second half struggles strangle G-Men

NOT A BIG CHANCE: Grambling State running back Chance Williams (2) couldn’t prevent the Tigers from fading after halftime at Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. 

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

DAYTONA, Fla. – While going from ‘G-Men’ to ‘Men in Black,’ Grambling State’s second-half struggles continued in a 36-19 loss at Bethune Cookman Saturday afternoon at Dayton Stadium.

Wearing 1970s-style pure black helmets, the Tigers battled back from an early deficit to build a 19-17 lead at halftime.

It was the first time “The G” had  not adorned a Grambling State helmet for decades. Reports say that it was a motivational move by new coach Hue Jackson to get them to “earn the G.” That “G” helmet mark has been a part of G-Man football tradition since the 1970s, and the move stirred up some adverse fan reaction.

On the field, the first half was a back-and-forth contest, with Grambling (1-3) earning a 19-17 halftime advantage thanks to a Joshua Reed end-zone sack that resulted in a safety, breaking a 17-17 tie midway through the second quarter.

But for a second straight week, the Tigers’ momentum faded after the band show as the Wildcats (1-2) outscored GSU 19-0 in the second half in the Southwestern Athletic Conference opener for both struggling teams.

Grambling trailed by only four last weekend at Jackson State before being blown out in the second half in a 45-point onslaught.

Saturday’s struggle was “déjà vu” all over again for the Tigers.

Trailing 17-10 early in the second quarter, the Tigers countered a Bethune-Cookman scoring drive with Quaterius Hawkins hitting  Phazion Wilson for his first collegiate touchdown on a nine-yard reception to complete an eight-play, 94-yard drive with 11:29 left in the half.

GSU’s Rey Estes forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff that put the Tigers in solid field position at the BCU 40. 

But Hawkins was intercepted in the end zone by Omari Hill-Robinson two minutes later.

After Reed’s safety gave Grambling a halftime lead, lightning struck for a second straight week.

GSU’s downward spiral started at the 3:30 mark of the third quarter when Bethune-Cookman took the lead on a 22-yard field goal.

Grambling countered with a long drive to the Wildcats’ 23-yard-line before Garrett Urban’s 39-yard field-goal attempt was blocked.

On the next Grambling State possession, the Wildcats got the ball back as Claude Coleman was stripped of the football inside BCU territory.

Bethune-Cookman mounted a 56-yard, eight-play scoring drive culminating with Jones hitting Kemari Averett on a nine-yard scoring strike to push BCU’s  advantage to 27-19 early in the final stanza.

The Wildcats sealed the deal  with a 21-yard field goal to give Bethune-Cookman a 30-19 lead before adding a last-minute touchdown.

Adding a lackluster post-halftime output in the blowout win over Northwestern State, GSU has now been outscored by a combined 91-13 in second-halves in the last three games.

Grambling didn’t have any trouble moving the football, outgaining BCU 461-336 in total yardage.

The Tigers won the battle for time of possession — 31:13 to 28:47.

But 14 penalties for 107 negative yards is tough to overcome. Bethune-Cookman has now defeated GSU four straight times since the Tigers won 24-23 in 2004.

Grambling’s rushing attack by committee continued against the Wildcats.

Dedrick Talbert led GSU with nine carries for 65 yards, becoming the third Tigers’ running back to lead the team in rushing through four games.

Hawkins connected on  22-of-43 passes for 287 yards, with two interceptions and one touchdown.

Contact Scott at tscottboatright@gmail.com

Photo courtesy Grambling State Athletics