Grambling hoping to finish what it starts tonight

SEEKING SECOND-HALF SUCCESS:   Grambling coach Hue Jackson is hoping the Tigers can play the final two quarters as well as they’ve played in the opening two periods as they play Prairie View in the State Fair Classic this evening. (Photo courtesy Grambling State Athletics)

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Journal Sports

DALLAS — Grambling State’s version of football lost and found continues this evening with the Tigers playing Prairie View A&M at 6 p.m. in the State Fair Classic at The Cotton Bowl.

The G-Men will be looking to earn back something that was missing during last week’s loss at Bethune-Cookman — the “G” that has adorned its helmets for decades.

They will also be looking to play a complete game, something that’s been elusive for Grambling (1-4, 0-1), which has collapsed in two straight second halves, including last week against Bethune-Cookman when the Tigers led 19-17 at intermission only to end up on the losing side of a 36-19 scoreboard. A week earlier, Jackson State led by four at halftime but blasted  Grambling 45-7 afterward, falling 66-24. Even in its only win, over Northwestern State Sept. 10, GSU was outpointed 14-6 after halftime.

The G-Men are expected to be without their iconic G again against Prairie View. Legendary Coach Eddie Robinson once had it removed from the helmets trying to spark an inconsistent team, and current GSU head coach Hue Jackson did the same last week as his squad played with simple solid black helmets.

“There’s a standard you have to have as a Grambling State football player,” Jackson said during a press conference earlier this week. “That ‘G’ does stand for greatness. It’s something you earn.

“It’s not something that’s given. These young men get it and they want to do everything they can to earn it and wear it the right way.”

But they’ll have to play the whole game in order to accomplish that.

Over their three losses this season, the Tigers hve been outscored 92-10. Their opponents have controlled time of possession – 34:59 minutes per game compared to 24:43 for GSU. 

GSU has recorded 57 first downs compared to 107 for its opponents. Grambling has thrown five interceptions compared to only two for their opponents.

On total offense, opponents are averaging 485.3 yards per game while holding GSU to 305.3

But still, GSU has shown it can be competitive at times.

The Tigers have scored on six of seven trips to the red zone, striking paydirt on four of those opportunities.   

Last weekend the Tigers outgained Bethune-Cookman by more than 100 yards but were outscored 19-0 after intermission in the Southwestern Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

“In the second half, we’ve been different,” Jackson said last week before experiencing deja vu at Bethune-Cookman. “That’s my charge as a head coach, and I’m going to do that. I think our team will compete. They’ll go out and give it everything they have. 

“What we have to do as a group is to learn how to finish, and finish strong. We have to understand the second half is more important than the first half. Once we get that understood, I think we’ll be fine.”

And while Jackson said he saw improvement from his Tigers against Bethune-Cookman, he’s still looking for more.

“There are still some things we are working through each and every day,” Jackson said. “I think we are building. I think our guys are starting to truly get and understand the environment I am creating for them. We are looking forward to playing again this weekend in the State Fair Classic.”

Tonight’s game will mark the 74th contest between GSU and Prairie View with the Tigers holding a 51-21-1 all-time series record against the Panthers. The Tigers are 27-10 all-time in the State Fair Classic, but have lost the last four decisions.

The last time Grambling State won the State Fair Classic was in 2017, the same year the Tigers won their most recent Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.

Tonight’s game will be streamed live on HBCU GO as Charlie Neal will have the call. Grambling State will broadcast and stream the game on the Grambling State Sports Radio Network. 

Contact Scott at tscottboatright@gmail.com