Grambling dethrones Alcorn State as SWAC champs

Published 11:15 pm Saturday, December 3, 2016

Former WC star Christmas earns MVP honors

HOUSTON (AP) — Alcorn State was fighting to keep its Southwestern Athletic Conference dynasty going. Grambling State was trying to keep its HBCU national championship hopes alive and put a capper on a dominant season.

In the battle of history vs. recency, recency prevailed.

Martez Carter set a SWAC championship game record with 348 all-purpose yards and scored the game-winning touchdown as Grambling overcame a 17-point halftime deficit to beat Alcorn 27-20 on Saturday.

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The game was a rematch of the 2015 title game, which Alcorn won. The Tigers won their first SWAC championship since 2011 and 25th title overall, the most in SWAC.

“They put us in a bind and dominated us in the first half, but our kids continued to fight,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. “We scrambled and made some plays and got some key stops, defensively, and were able to come away with the victory.”

Grambling linebacker De’Arius Christmas was named the game’s defensive MVP. The former Warren Central star had 12 tackles and one sack.

Carter rushed for 136 yards on 14 carries for the Tigers, and caught five passes for 66 yards. He added another 146 yards on punt and kickoff returns, including a 73-yard return of the second-half kickoff that sparked the Tigers’ comeback.

Grambling quarterback Devante Kincade threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 15-of-22 passing, despite getting sacked eight times.

Alcorn dominated the first two quarters and took a 17-0 lead into halftime. Lenorris Footman scored on a 15-yard run and De’Lance Turner had a 69-yard TD run for the Braves (5-6), who were attempting to win their third straight SWAC championship.

No team has won three SWAC titles in a row since Grambling did it from 2000 to 2002.
Turner finished with 126 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Footman only rushed for 11 yards on 18 carries, but completed 14 of 24 passes for 259 yards.

After their impressive first half, however, the Braves only scored three points in the second half.
Early in the fourth quarter they had a chance to take a 10-point lead, but tight end Michael Ajumobi dropped a pass when he was wide open at the goal line. Alcorn settled for a 41-yard field goal by Haiden McCraney to go up 20-14, and Grambling scored the tying touchdown on its next possession.

Alcorn had 173 rushing yards in the first half, and only 16 in the second.

“We gave up big plays and those kinds of things hurt,” Alcorn State head coach Fred McNair said. “It’s just the way it happened and that’s the way that second half played out, unfortunately.”

Grambling’s comeback started with a 29-yard touchdown pass from Devante Kincade to Verlan Hunter on the opening possession of the third quarter. Alcorn went three-and-out, and the Tigers went right back down the field to score on a 1-yard run by Lyndemian Brooks with 8:06 left in the quarter.

The Tigers tied the game at 20 when Dominique Leake caught a forced fumble in midair on the 2-yard line and stepped into the end zone with 7:25 left in the game. The PAT was blocked, but Carter’s 31-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes remaining gave them the lead.

“Once we came in the halftime locker room and saw how everybody had the same mindset, I wasn’t worried at all,” Kincade said. “I was ready to get back on the field.”

Grambling cornerback Jameel Jackson intercepted a pass at midfield with three minutes remaining.

Grambling wound up punting, and Alcorn got the ball back with 1:18 remaining.
Footman completed a 36-yard pass to Jalen Walker, who fell out of bounds at the Grambling 33-yard line as time expired. A replay review put one second back on the clock, and the Braves got one last chance to keep their championship hopes alive.

Footman’s Hail Mary pass sailed harmlessly out of bounds in the right corner of the end zone, however, and it was Grambling that got to celebrate.

25 – Grambling
18 – Southern University
16 – Jackson State
11 – Alcorn State, Prairie View A&M
3 – Texas Southern