By T. Scott Boatright
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Grambling State coach Hue Jackson finally saw a full 60 minutes of effort and competitiveness Saturday night as his Tigers took on Alabama A&M at Lewis Crews Stadium.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, this time that wasn’t enough.
It wasn’t until a walk-off sack ended the hard-fought contest with the Bulldogs taking a 37-31 win over the Tigers in double-overtime.
It was a tough end to a game during which 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 he’s willing to work as hard as anyone.
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.
The Tigers took over on their own 29-yard line with 3:42 remaining before marching to the Bulldogs’ 14 with 1:11 remaining.
Emerging No. 1 running back Maurice Washington followed with a one-yard touchdown to complete a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 24-24 with 29 seconds remaining.
Alabama A&M won the OT coin toss and deferred, giving first possession to the Tigers.
Calvez calmly then 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 from Casey, to send the game into a second overtime at 31-31.
Alabama A&M’s Donald Englan’s six-yard scoring scamper put the Bulldogs on top to start the second quarter. Their two-point pass conversion attempt failed, leaving their lead at 37-31.
On Grambling’s possession to try and at least tie, the Bulldogs forced three incompletions 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, with Garrett Urban’s 31-yard field goal put GSU on top 3-0 at the 5:44 mark of the opening stanza.
The Bulldogs (2-4, 2-1) used a little “trickeration” with a fake punt on fourth-and-short to complete 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.
It was never a “pretty” game for either offensive team, leading GSU head coach to utilize three quarterbacks trying to ignite his offense.
Quaterius Hawkins got first chance at replacing Calvez, and responded by hitting Lyndon Rash on a 10-yard scoring strike with 21 second left in the first half to give Grambling a 10-7 lead at intermission.
Alabama A&M went to the “trickeration” playbook again midway through the third quarter.
The Bulldogs moved the football to the GSU 43 before Isiah Cox completed a 27-yard pass to Quincy Casey at the GSU 16-yard line before Casey hit Cox againfor on a six-yard scoring strike that put Alabama A&M up 14-10 with 7:09 left in the quarter.
On the ensuing series, Alabama A&M converted a red-zone fumble by Hawkins into a field goal to push its lead to 17-10.
Grambling then gave junior transfer quarterback Chance Amie from Syracuse 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 to tie the game at 17-17.
Momentum juked the G-Men shortly 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 by instant replay, negating the fumble.
Alabama A&M went on to take a 24-17 advantage with 10:21 left off of a nine-play scoring drive.
And all of that set up the wild finish — a heartbreaking one for the Tigers.