By SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Journal Sports
GRAMBLING — Grambling State University football coach Hue Jackson smiled more than once late Saturday afternoon.
When handed a stat sheet just before his postgame press conference began, Jackson laughed incredulously, saying “wow” out loud.
A few minutes earlier, just before receiving a midfield Gatorade shower, Jackson looked up to the scoreboard and grinned.
That’s because while it’s hard to believe looking at final game stats, Grambling State not only defeated, but dominated Alcorn State in a 35-6 win that gave the Tigers their first home and first Southwestern Athletic Conference win of the Jackson Era.
The win pushed the Tigers to 2-6 and 1-4 in the SWAC while Alcorn State fell to 3-5 and 2-3.
“I’m excited not only for our team, but for our fans,” Jackson said. “Our fans have hung in there with us. They showed up again. We can hear them. We can feel them. I just can’t thank them enough for being there.
“It’s great to win at home. I think our players deserve it. We’ve been close the last couple of games prior to today, and we were looking for the breakthrough. We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when. But the guys stuck to it and the coaches did a great job of preparing them and today we got a victory.”
That they did, even though game statistics by no means made that obvious.
Alcorn State outgained GSU in total offense by more than 100 yards – 312-209.
The Braves had 21 first downs compared to 10 for the Tigers.
Alcorn dominated time of possession 37:12-22:48.
But two quick touchdowns in the opening 5:04 of the contest propelled the Tigers to a win in a game during which the Braves never threatened to make it close.
“Today we were able to capitalize on a couple of breaks we got early in the game, and we capitalized on that momentum,” Jackson said. “We were able to ride it all the way home.”
That momentum came on the game’s opening kickoff.
Alcorn State’s Manny Jones received the kick at his eight-yard line and returned it to the Braves’ 21 before GSU’s Kevin Thomas forced a fumble that was recovered by the Tigers’ Ken Pierre-Charles at the 22-yard line.
Four plays later, a four-yard scoring scamper by Grambling’s Maurice Washington put the Tigers up 7-0 only 3:07 into the contest.
Grambling’s special teams were back at it on the ensuing Alcorn possession. The Tigers held the Braves to no yards on a three-and-out before G-Man Kiani Noah blocked ASU’s attempted punt, with GSU’s Patrick Marshall pouncing on the ball at the Alcorn 16-yard line.
Three plays later Grambling’s Chance Williams plunged one yard to paydirt to put the Tigers on top 14-0 at the 9:54 mark of the opening stanza.
While Jackson appreciated the win, he knows his Tigers have a lot of things to fix, including the plethora of penalties that have plagued GSU all season long. Against Alcorn, Grambling was flagged nine times for 79 yards while Alcorn was penalized only twice for 19 yards.
“We got over the (win) hump, but I’m still ticked,” Jackson said. “That has been an Achilles heel for us. You can’t score touchdowns and have them called back. That’s something that’s a problem.
“Until I can fix that, I don’t think I’ve done that part good enough, and we as a staff have not done that part good enough. We still have way too many penalties, and that will stop us from becoming the team we want to be, so it’s something we’re going to continue to harp on, something we’re going to continue to fix, but am I excited today — you’re exactly right I am. I just want one more point than the other team. I didn’t think it was going to be 29. Just one more point than the other team and we get the victory, and we were able to do that today.”
Grambling stretched its lead to 21-0 with 7:01 remaining in the second quarter as Myron Williams returned a 68-yard pick six to paydirt before the Tigers made it 28-0 at halftime after true freshman quarterback Julian Calvez scored on a two-yard run with 1:40 remaining in the first half.
Alcorn State’s lone score came with 19 seconds left in the third quarter on a four-yard pass from Tre Lawrence to Tavarious Griffin while Grambling’s Floyd Chalk closed out scoring with a 23-yard touchdown with 14:15 remaining in the contest.
Washington led Grambling’s ground attack with 67 yards on nine carries while Calvez connected on 7-of-14 passes for 58 yards while adding 10 rushing yards.
Grambling’s Lewis Matthews led the Tigers with 13 tackles while Joshua Reed added 12.
Lawrence Asiedu totaled 2.5 sacks as part of his six-tackle performance for the Tigers while Brian Powell added 1.5 quarterback takedowns.
“I’m excited about all those guys on defense,” Jackson said. “Brian Powell, Lewis Matthews, Joshua Reed … Rey Estes makes an interception. How he caught that ball I have no idea. I’m just happy for our guys because I know how much work they put in.”
Grambling returns to Robinson Memorial Stadium next weekend as the Tigers celebrate Homecoming 2022 with a game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff set for a 2 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.
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