Grambling gets nipped in double overtime

TIGER TD:  Grambling’s Lyndon Rash (10) hauled in four receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown Saturday against Alabama A&M. (Photo courtesy GSU Athletics Communications)

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — New Grambling State coach Hue Jackson finally saw game-long effort and competitiveness Saturday as his Tigers took on Alabama A&M at Lewis Crews Stadium.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, this time that wasn’t quite enough.

A walk-off sack ended the hard-fought contest with the Bulldogs taking a 37-31 win over the visiting Tigers (1-5, 0-3 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference) in double overtime.

It was a crushing end to the first contest this season when the Tigers maintained their intensity throughout.

Figuring out a driver for GSU’s offensive engine contributed to the struggles, and it was true freshman Julian Calvez who showed encouraging signs that he may be the answer – although Jackson played three quarterbacks. It was Calvez at the outset and in the crunch, however.

Calvez’s first starting role steering the Grambling offense was bumpy, to say the least. 

The product of Jones High School in Orlando, Florida, went 8 of 17 passing for 74 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, returning to the game in the fourth quarter after being replaced by Quaterius Hawkins and Chance Amie before being granted another opportunity under center.

Trailing 24-17, the Tigers took over on their own 29-yard line with 3:42 remaining and steadily moved inside the red zone, then neared the goalline in the final minute.

Emerging No. 1 running back  Maurice Washington delivered a one-yard touchdown to complete a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive, tying it at 24-all with 29 seconds remaining.

Alabama A&M won the OT coin toss and deferred, giving first possession to the Tigers. Calvez hit Noah Bean on a 26-yard scoring strike to put the G-Men on top, 31-24.

The Bulldogs countered with a seven-yard scoring reception by Keenan Hambrick to send the game into a second overtime at 31-31.

Alabama A&M’s Donovan Englin’s six-yard scoring scamper put the Bulldogs on top. Their mandatory two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving their lead at six points.

On Grambling’s possession, the Bulldogs forced three incompletions — two in the end zone — before sacking Calvez on fourth down for the walk-off win.

Grambling opened scoring in the contest after Chandler Moncrief’s strip sack gave the Tigers the ball at the Bulldogs’ 12-yard line. Garrett Urban’s 31-yard field goal put GSU on top 3-0 just over nine minutes into play.

The Bulldogs (2-4, 2-1) used a little “trickeration” with a fake punt on fourth-and-short to key a 12-play, 70-yard drive as Eaglin, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Week, burst 26 yards up the middle to paydirt, giving Alabama A&M a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Prior Tigers’ starting QB Quaterius Hawkins got first chance at replacing Calvez, and responded by hitting Lyndon Rash on a 10-yard scoring strike with 21 seconds left in the first half to give Grambling a 10-7 lead at intermission.

The Bulldogs’ Isiah Cox and Quincy Casey connected on a six-yard pass that put Alabama A&M up 14-10 with 7:09 left in the quarter.

Alabama A&M converted a red-zone fumble by Hawkins into a field goal to push its lead to 17-10.

Jackson then gave junior transfer quarterback Chance Amie a shot behind center. He responded by guiding the Tigers on a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive, capping it off by plunging two-yards to paydirt for a 17-17 tie.

Momentum juked the G-Men a couple of plays later when it looked like a scoop-and-score fumble recovery by Ray Estes would put Grambling on top. But the runner was ruled down in a replay overturn, negating the fumble. 

Alabama A&M drove downfield to take a 24-17 advantage with under four minutes left.

All of that set up the wild finish — a heartbreaking one for the Tigers.

Contact Scott at tscottboatright@gmail.com