Grambling’s finish is fine, but first-half failures doom Tigers

TIGER TD: Grambling’s Noah Bean hauls in a 5-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter Saturday against Prairie View. (Photo courtesy GSU Athletics Communications)

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

After three straight games of second-half struggles, Grambling State finally put together a strong final 30 minutes during Saturday’s State Fair Classic against Prairie View A&M at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

But first-half woes cost the Tigers in a series dating back to 1925. Prairie View roared out to a big first-half lead that fueled a 34-14 Southwestern Athletic Conference win over Grambling, the Panthers’ fifth straight in the rivalry, before a crowd of 53,971.

The Panthers (3-2, 3-0) used a methodical offensive attack, building a 27-0 advantage by halftime, heading the Tigers (1-4, 0-2) toward a third straight loss under first-year coach Hue Jackson.

Prairie View marched  80 yards on 16 plays with running back Ja’den Stewart scoring on a 2-yard run that put the Panthers on top 7-0.

The Panthers continued lighting up the scoreboard in the second quarter, with field goals of 26 and 37 yards by Luis Reyes and a 35-yard scoring scamper stretching Prairie View’s lead to 20-0 with 1:45 remaining in the first half.

Prairie View linebacker Xavier Watson snatched up a ball he had stripped from Tigers’ quarterback Quaterius Hawkins  and raced 40 yards untouched to put Prairie View up 27-0 at intermission.

Grambling didn’t score until late in the third quarter when Julian Calvez, who had come in to replace starting Hawkins, scored on a 5-yard run with 4:42 showing.

Calvez was back at it on Grambling’s next possession, which started at the Prairie View 30-yard line thanks to a fumble recovery.

Seven plays later Noah Bean, who led GSU with four catches for 33 yards,  hauled in a 5-yard scoring reception from Calvez with 1:22 left to cut Prairie View’s lead to 27-14. But it didn’t get closer.

Prairie View’s last score came in the fourth period when a punt hit a Grambling State defender and was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown with 5:30 to go.

Grambling drove to the Prairie View 20 before turning the ball over on downs with 4:25 remaining, and the Panthers’ offense chewed up the rest of the clock to seal the win.

Hawkins hit on 5-of-9 passes for 39 yards while Calvez connected on 5-of-13 attempts for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Floyd Chalk led Grambling’s run game with 47 yards on four carries while Chance Williams added 36 yards on nine rushes.

Lewis Matthews, who ranks second nationally in solo tackles, topped the Tigers, racking up 17 total takedowns, including three solo stops, while Joshua Reed added 10 tackles (five solos).

Neither team managed 300 yards of offense.

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