That includes losses of 49-13 against Nevada to begin last season; 34-10 in Week 2 of 2007 at Pittsburgh; 27-26 to Hampton (also in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge) in an overtime thriller to open 2006; 48-7 at Washington State in Week 2 of 2005; 29-0 at San Jose State in the 2003 opener; 52-20 at McNeese in the 2002 opener; and 52-0 to Louisville in Game 2 of the 2000 season.
“We’ve gotten off to rocky starts early, playing good teams,” third-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway said. “But when you pay good teams, it makes you better. That’s why I like playing a team like South Carolina State.”
Grambling would go 11-1 in 2009 after that stumble in Reno, earning Broadway his first SWAC Championship. The Tigers won 8 games in a row after falling to Louisville in 2000; 11 in a row after falling at Lake Charles in 2002; and 10 consecutive games after losing in Seattle in 2005 — claiming the league crown in each of those years, as well.
WALLS TO BE HONORED
Former Grambling State defensive back Everson Walls, later a standout with the NFL’s Cowboys, Giants and Browns, will be among those recognized at the inaugural MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legends Reception at Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s BoardWalk, Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla., on Saturday.
The reception will honor individuals who graduated from a MEAC or SWAC institution. Walls was best in the nation for interceptions as a senior at Grambling in 1980, led Dallas in picks a franchise-record five times and later helped New York to a Super Bowl title in the early 1990s.
Here they are …
PICKING SOUTH CAROLINA STATE
Lou Holtz, ESPN College Football Analyst
“Buddy Pough coached for me at South Carolina. Both teams won their conference championship. Grambling has more players returning, but South Carolina State has a good running back coming back. I believe in Coach Pough and I believe it’ll be a great contest, great show and great event.”
Jay Harris, SportsCenter Anchor
“What better way to start the season than the MEAC/SWAC Challenge? Defending conference champs meeting for the first time since 1994? I am looking forward to a battle. Precision. Fire. Concentration. And that’s just the halftime show! All kidding aside, this should be a great game. I’m going South Carolina State 27, Grambling 25.”
Dr. Jerry Punch, Lead Announcer, NASCAR on ESPN
“Last Year the Tigers of Grambling State won it all, finishing the year with an 11-2 record and a SWAC Championship; while the Bulldogs of South Carolina State ran the table in the MEAC, but had to face defending national champion Appalachian State in the opening round of the FCS playoffs. It would seem both return talented squads in ‘09, and the MEAC/SWAC Challenge this year could be the best in the history of this matchup.
“I tend to believe that a team that is left hungry without fulfilling its goals is very dangerous; so I am leaning toward the Bulldogs of South Carolina State in this one. Also, since leadership on the field and off plays such a vital role in sports, I give the edge to SC State because their stellar DE Zachery Middleton was recently elected Student Body President. Advantage, Bulldogs.”
Jesse Palmer, ESPN College Football Analyst
“While both teams return many playmakers offensively, I think this game will be determined by defense. Grambling State led the FCS last season in turnover margin, and finished in the top 10 in total rushing and scoring defense. Many key starters return from that unit, and I expect their aggressive and opportunistic style of play to show itself again, particularly up front vs. a South Carolina State offensive line that lost three starters. Grambling’s dual threat QB Greg Dillon returns for his sophomore campaign, having led Grambling in both passing yards and rushing yards last season. Dillon is a game-changer who can hurt defenses with both his arm and his legs. I think Grambling State beats South Carolina State 24-21 because of superior defense and great QB play.”
Stan Verrett, SportsCenter Anchor
“I am a proud Howard graduate, and so I wish I could pick the Bulldogs in this game; but Grambling is coming off a championship season, and head coach Rod Broadway seems intent on repeating. So I will have to take the Tigers in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. And Grambling’s band always puts on a show that will rival anyone. So I think it’s going to be a big night for the Tiger Faithful in Orlando.”