By T. Scott Boatright
GRAMBLING – In a game that at times resembled a heavyweight slugfest, Grambling State won by unanimous decision.
The G-Men kept swinging — and scoring — until the very end as Grambling State held on for a hard-fought 35-23 win over Texas Southern Saturday afternoon at Eddie G. Robinson Stadium.
While it certainly didn’t come easily, GSU head coach Hue Jackson was simply pleased to walk away with the win.
“I’m excited for our players, our fans, our supporters to be able to watch us get the first win against Texas Southern at home,” Jackson said. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight. That’s a good football team regardless of what their record is. I think our guys battled extremely hard. We understand the momentum in games and how it comes and goes.
“There are some things we know we have to continue to clean up and get better at, but I’m excited because we’re winning. We’re starting to stack wins together and that’s what you have to do in this conference. These conference games mean a lot, so to open at home with a victory was very important.”
Grambling went to a double-barrelled, ground and pound offensive attack with sophomore running backs Chance Williams and Floyd Chalk IV attacking the TSU defense right from the opening kickoff.
The G-Men took their second possession and marched 49 yards on seven plays with Chalk plunging to paydirt from one-yard out to put Grambling up 7-0 at the 7:34 mark of the opening stanza.
Texas Southern landed its first big punch in the second quarter as Jace connected with AJ Bennett on a 41-yard touchdown pass Bennett hauled in right as he crossed the goal line to tie things up at 7-7 with 9:54 left in the stanza.
But the G-Men would move on top 14-7 at intermission thanks to quarterback Myles Crawley firing a 17-yard touchdown to Lyndon Rash, who outbattled a TSU defensive back for the ball, with seven seconds left in the second quarter.
Rash led GSU on the day with four catches for 58 yards and two scores.
“Lyndon is one of those guys who doesn’t complain, doesn’t say give me the ball,” Jackson said. “He’s always about the team. Every now and then I want him to be selfish, because he’s that kind of player.
“He’s going to make plays for you. And today he made two huge touchdown catches with a guy draped all over him. That’s what type of player he is. He’s a tremendous football player, he’s an unbelievable person and he’s an unbelievable teammate.”
But TSU again battled back to open the second half, marching 49 yards and kicking a 41-yard field goal that cut Grambling’s lead to 14-10 only 4:09 into the third quarter.
Grambling quickly landed a counterpunch, pushing its advantage to 21-10 on an 11-yard scoring scamper by Williams at the 7:27 mark of the third stanza.
Williams finished the day with 174 yards on 19 rushing attempts as part of a GSU rushing attack that totaled 282 yards on 48 carries. Chalk also had a strong game, totalling 88 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 17 touches.
“I think we can run the football,” Jackson said. “I’ve always said that. We have good backs. We have a good offensive line. We work at it. But we miss some things, too, at times, but we have some good runners and they know how to run the football and I think we’ll continue to get better at it.”
Texas Southern battled back with Wilson hitting Eyan Means on a 34-yard touchdown pass that cut GSU’s lead to 21-17 with 1:37 left in the third quarter.
But once again GSU quickly landed a big counterpunch as Crawley connected with Rash on a 10-yard scoring strike to put the G-Men up 28-17 at the 11:27 mark of the final stanza.
Texas Southern followed that blow with one of their own as Wilson fired his third scoring pass of the game, hitting Jyrin Johnson on a 25-yard to shrink Grambling’s lead to 28-23 (TSU missed the point after) with 8:12 left on the clock.
And again Grambling was ready for a counterpunch, this time for the knockout, as Chalk again scored on a one-yard run with 3:25 remaining to seal up the win and move the G-Men to 2-2 on the season.
Jackson was pleased to see how his team consistently responded to TSU scores, crediting Crawley for leading that charge.
“Those were very important,” Jackson said of GSU’s last two touchdown drives. “When you have an offense that can answer, a quarterback with that kind of calmness. His whole thing was, ‘Don’t worry about it Coach, we’ll take care of it.’ And that’s what you want. There was never any doubt on our sideline, and that’s because we have a quarterback that you believe and who’s going to go and take the team down the field.”
“So I’m excited about what he’s doing, but I’m also excited about what he’s becoming, because I think he’s becoming a leader. I see him going and telling the defense, ‘Hey, get me the ball back. Just get me the ball back and we’ll find a way to score.’”
Defensively, Grambling was led by Lewis Matthews with 11 tackles on the day.
“I can’t say enough about Lewis,” Jackson said. “Lewis told me yesterday, he said, ‘Coach, I got you tomorrow.’ I know when he says that he means it because he comes to play. I was worried at one point when he came out of the game because I thought he was hurt, but he said, ‘Coach, it’s just my socks. I’ve got to change my socks.’ But we’re a really good football team when he’s out there and he makes a difference for our team.”
While relishing the win, Jackson admitted concern after the game over the fact his team was again hit with a plethora of penalties as the G-Men were flagged 11 times for 98 yards.
“That’s my fault — I take full responsibility,” Jackson said about his team once again being hit with a number of penalties. “It’s called discipline. It’s something we talk about as a football team — we talk about our personal discipline, our team discipline, our football discipline, and our football discipline has to catch up with the other side of it. That’s important to do in that area.
“I told the team that after the game. I’m proud of them, but at the same time, we know what we need to do.”