Grambling looks to get on winning track in SWAC starting with Prairie View

Who: Grambling State (1-2) vs. Prairie View A&M (1-1)

Where: The Cotton Bowl Stadium (Dallas, Texas)

When: 4 p.m. Saturday

Radio: 96.3 FM (Ruston), 103.1 FM (Monroe)

Radio Talent: Santoria Black (PxP), Ossie Clark (Color), Nick Harrison (Sideline), T Lay Collins (Sideline)

By T. Scott Boatright

It’s not Christmastime, so Ebenezer Scrooge isn’t around. And Halloween is still over a month away.

Still, the ghost of “future recent” has tormented the Grambling State Tigers football team for at least the past year, if not longer.

But GSU coach Broderick Fobbs is hoping that “ghosts of the past” will help inspire and propel his Tigers to a brighter future starting at 4 p.m. Saturday, when GSU kicks off against Prairie View A&M in the Texas State Fair Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The game will be the 2021 fall season Southwestern Athletic Conference opener for the Tigers.

After not playing in the fall of 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic before going 0-4 during the virus-shortened season last spring, and then defeating Tennessee State in the season opener before dropping the last two games, albeit to FBS opponents, getting his Tigers back on a winning track in the SWAC is on Fobbs’ mind.

Fobbs was a GSU running back in the mid 1990s, when the G-Men dominated the Panthers in the annual Texas State Fair Classic.

But that hasn’t been the case in recent years.

After the short-term disbanding of the Prairie View football program in 1990, the State Fair Classic featured Grambling and Elizabeth City State that year. 

Although Prairie View brought football back in 1991, that season Grambling played North Carolina A&T, so it was not until 1992 that the State Fair Classic returned to the annual showdown between the Panthers and Tigers.

Grambling won every contest between the teams until that changed with the 2009 edition won by the Panthers.

Since then, Prairie View has won seven of 12 games against GSU, including the last three.

Between 1950 and 1964, Prairie View won five black national titles and eight of its 11 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles, defeating the legendary Eddie Robinson’s Grambling teams 10 out of 15 times.

Then, after going 5-5 1972, Prairie View only once finished above .500 over the next 17 seasons, going winless in 1974 and 1979 before losing 28 straight games in the early 1980s.

Because of internal problems and financial struggles, Prairie View dropped football in 1990 before bringing it back the next season. 

The Panthers went 0-11 every year from 1991-96 before going 0-9 in 1997. Combined with the two losses at the end of the 1989 season, the Panthers began the 1998 season with the longest losing streak in college football history at any level — 77 games.

But eventually things slowly and surely began turning around for Prairie View’s football team. Grambling won every game between the teams from 1999 until 2009. Since then, Prairie View has won seven of 12 games against GSU, including the last three.

“Wow it has been three years since we’ve won this ballgame,” Fobbs said. “(Panthers coach Eric) Dooley has done an exceptional job of really coaching his team and being prepared and ready to play. We’re looking forward to this and looking forward to this challenge.

 “We feel really good being back here in the Cotton Bowl where all the ghosts of the past, the great players have played. We’re just looking forward to playing Grambling Tiger football.” 

Dooley and Fobbs are no strangers. Before taking over as head coach of the Panthers, Dooley was offensive coordinator under Fobbs at GSU.

And Grambling hasn’t defeated the Panthers since Dooley took over at Prairie View,

“We don’t normally talk,” Fobbs said of his current relationship with Dooley. “He participated here. And, he was really instrumental in us being successful. He’s got his opportunity to be a head football coach. We do speak when we see each other. At the end of the day, we’re focused on our programs and running our programs.”

GSU (1-2) enters Saturday’s conference opener following back-to-back losses to Southern Miss and Houston, while Prairie View A&M (2-1) is coming off a 37-27 victory over Houston Baptist last Saturday.

“It was good to get back out there and play last week and we played against a really, really tough University of Houston football team — a very deep football team that can really throw the football and run the football really well,” said GSU coach Broderick Fobbs. “I thought for a quarter and a half we played really good defense. Offensively we struggled and we weren’t able to sustain any drives or put any points on the board.

“Those are the types of games where you’ve got to be prepared to jump over those types of hurdles in order to have a chance to win. We just didn’t overcome much of the hurdles in order to have a chance to win the football game.”

Grambling and Prairie View will be meeting for the 63rd time with GSU leading the series 51-20-1.

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