After a first period that saw Northwestern State’s big, strong running back Quentin Castille tear through this defense, Grambling came alive — scoring three times in a thunderous sequence beginning just before halftime when Desmond Lenard ran a fumble recovery back 37 yards for a touchdown.
Then, in the third quarter, Christian Anthony turned consecutive interceptions into TDs — first on a pitch back to Nigel Copeland then on his own 25-yard return. (Anthony would earn two defensive player of the week awards, first from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and then from The Sports Network — a national FCS honor.)
A 38-17 rout was on.
“You’ll score one here, one there,” a still-marvelling Grambling coach Rod Broadway said, “but to score three times defensively? Maybe that’s what we’re going to have to do this year is score defensively, if we’re gong to win football games, because right now our offense is not getting the ball in the end zone.”
While the Demons exploded for 122 first-half yards, they were limited to just 56 after the band played.
“The thing that happened late in the ballgame, we’d miss that tackle, and we’d have more guys there to make the tackle,” Broadway said. “In the first half, we’d have three guys standing there watching him run, and then he’d go punish someone else. Once we started running defensively I think the momentum of the game changed.”
Next up: An 0-2 Jackson State team that’s only scored twice so far in 2009.
The problem for Anthony and Co. this week might diagnosing just who they are supposed to be chasing at quarterback.
Jackson State began the season with last year’s starter, Trae Rutland, under center — then a week later switched to Michael Mosley (who also saw playing time at quarterback against Grambling in the 2008 SWAC Championship Game), and now plan to go with Dedric McDonald on Saturday.
McDonald earned the job while relieving Mosley in what would become a heartbreaking 14-7 loss last Saturday to regional rival Tennessee State. The reserve threw for 148 yards and a TD on 11-of-24 passes with no interceptions.
“I think we’ve found a quarterback in McDonald,” Jackson State coach Rick Comegy said. “I think he can move the football and so some good things.”
Should those struggles against the rush crop up again for this Grambling defense, credit a long-awaited breakout game for Jackson’s sophomore backs Darius Bolela and Luther Edwards. JSU hasn’t established the run yet, either, however, averaging just over 2 yards a carry to rank No. 7 in the 10-team SWAC. (Grambling is No. 2 in the league for rushing offense, behind only Southern.)
The last time Jackson State went 0-3 to start the year was 2004. But that’s also the last time JSU beat Grambling in a regular-season matchup, as Melvin Spears’ first team fell 32-23.
These two teams also shared similar offensive problems, and non-winning records, at this point last year — then streaked into the title match. Grambling was victorious in that one, but Jackson took the 2007 SWAC Championship Game over GSU.
“I really enjoy games like this,” Comegy said. “It creates a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the kids. (Grambling is) good at what they do. That makes you as a coach to make sure you don’t leave anything unturned.”
In keeping, JSU switched some game-day coaching responsibilities, including who relays the calls from offensive coordinator James Woody.
Grambling, even after the signature out-of-conference victory over Northwestern State, is at No. 3 in the latest Sports Network black college football poll.
Here’s the list:
1. South Carolina State
2. Florida A&M
3. Grambling State
4. Prairie View A&M
6. Alabama A&M
8. Albany State