By T. Scott Boatright
To be the best you’ve got to beat the best — even when you’re making history in the process.
That’s the mindset of the Grambling State football team as the G-Men prepare to take on LSU for the first time ever as they take on the No. 14 purple and gold Tigers at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
Both teams are shaking off losses to open the season last week as Grambling fell 35-31 to Hampton at the Brick City Classic in New Jersey last Saturday while LSU lost 45-24 to Florida State in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday.
GSU coach Hue Jackson said there were some positives in that loss to Hampton he hopes his Tigers can build on.
“Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but I think there were a lot of good things to take away from the game,” Jackson said of Grambling’s Week 1 loss to Hampton. “We wanted to win and obviously we didn’t. The score was disappointing, but we learned about our football team.”
The performance of junior Myles Crawley, a transfer from Alabama State, playing and starting his first game at GSU and completing 25-of-38 passes for 311 yards and two touchdowns was another thing Jackson hopes his team can build on.
“I thought he did some really good things,” Jackson said of Crawley. “He went 25-of-38 … 60 percent with a couple of touchdowns. He played within himself and we were happy with that.
“There were some throws I’m sure he’d tell you that he left out there, but at the same time, I thought it was a good first outing.”
Jackson was not as pleased with the Grambling defense.
“We’ve got to get that shored up. That’s not good defense by any stretch of the imagination.”
GSU was known for contending with if not beating Power 5 schools in the Tigers’ post-integration heyday of the 1970s when the Tigers were often drawing in talent approaching the same level as the Notre Dames of the college football world.
It’s not so easy for a smaller school to have a similar chance 50 years later, but Jackson said there will be no change in the Tigers’ approach from Week 1 to Week 2.
“We’re preparing just like any other week — we’re working and preparing to win,” Jackson said. “They are a fine program with great coaches and will be playing in their home standium. But we have to continue to get better. We’re chasing a win. The fact that it’s against an LSU team that lost last week is not going to change things.”
That attitude doesn’t mean Jackson doesn’t realize the historical significance of Grambling taking on LSU.
“I think it’s important,” Jackson said. “Obviously it’s important for in-state recruiting. I think it’s important because there’s some tremendous football played in this state. Obviously we feel very comfortable and confident with what we’re doing with our program, but that program has won national championships as well, so I think it’s important that these schools play. It’s a chance to display the school, the football brand, and everything we’re trying to accomplish.”
GSU defensive lineman Jaylin Carter, the Defensive Player of the Game against Hampton after recording eight tackles, including a shared sack, feels much like his head coach.
“We’re approaching it just like every other game,” Carter said. “It’s just the next game on the schedule, so it’s the biggest game. We’ve got a lot of guys on our team with NFL aspirations, so it’s just a chance to be able to go out and show why they should go to that next level.”
Crawley, too, has only one thing on his mind.
“We’re going in to win,” Crawley said. “Our mentality every week is to win, so this week, even against LSU, it’s the same motive — to win.”
Jackson knows it’s a money game for GSU — LSU is paying Grambling State $760,000 in addition to $20,000 to the GSU Foundation/Football account — but that’s not how he’s approaching the historic showdown.
“I don’t try to look at it that way,” Jackson said. “These guys, our players, would love to play these types of games every week. Obviously there’s a resource difference between the two schools, but I think from a player’s standpoint, everyone wants to be tested — everyone wants to be challenged.
“This is one of the best challenges you can have. So this is an opportunity for our guys to display who we are and what we have the potential to be, and I’m looking forward to it.”