Back in the Day: Grambling plays 2005 game against Concordia

Nick’s note: A year after going winless at Robinson Stadium, Grambling finished an undefeated 2005 home slate with a memorable 82-7 squishing of Concordia — the most lopsided win by the Tigers since 1959. TheDerisoReport takes a look back at that game, one of the more controversial moments during a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship run under former coach Melvin Spears, in advance of GSU’s homecoming match on Saturday against this NAIA foe.

Grambling State fills football date with Concordia College
March 2, 2005
The smallest school on a 2005 home schedule that includes Pac-10 power Washington State has created some of the biggest questions for Grambling State fans.

GSU will announce a slate that includes a November non-conference game against tiny Concordia College, a Selma, Ala., program that will field its first football team next year.

“They moved some dates around, because they wanted to come up here,” said GSU athletics director Willie Jeffries. “They were one of the only teams that we could find who would come in on that date – and one who would sign a one-time guarantee where we do not have to return a game.”

But who are these guys?

Concordia, one of 10 institutions in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod university system, is the only historical black Lutheran college in the nation. President Julius Jenkins – who holds a masters from GSU’s fellow conference member Alabama State – led the school from junior-college status to four-year accreditation in 1994.

The Grambling game is part of an effort to position Concordia for membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Division III. Concordia’s 2005 schedule also includes Webber International University, an NAIA team that finished last season with a 5-5 record.

New head coach Tim Perry, who briefly played collegiate football at Alabama A&M, was hired last June.

He was previously defensive line coach at Phillips-Carver High School in Birmingham from 1999-2002, then took over as head football coach in 2003. He led a team that had finished 1-9 in 2002 to a 6-4 mark – garnering City of Birmingham High School Coach of the Year honors – before being hired away to Concordia.

Perry came in confident, telling The Selma Times-Journal: “A 10-0 record would be acceptable our first year. I don’t have a mediocre God. Why should I have a mediocre football team?”

Jeffries added that while many may not have heard of Perry’s Hornets, the agreement ensures that GSU will have a fourth home game.

That resonates with fans like Paul Taylor of Grambling, who said he attends every contest at Robinson Stadium – regardless of the opponent.

“I don’t have a problem with Concordia at all,” said Taylor, a fixture in his Paul “Tank” Younger jersey. “I would tell fans just to come to the game and have a good time. I don’t care if we are playing Timbuktu College at home. I am still at the game early for pregame. We as fans, and especially season ticketholders, need to be at every home game.”

Perry’s roster is still taking shape, but he hopes to build a winning tradition by aggressively recruiting outside of Selma. In fact, of the 30 athletes inked by Concordia on National Signing Day last month, 20 were from the Atlanta area.

Perry also recruited in Birmingham, focusing on Ensley High, his alma mater. Concordia got commitments from strong safety James Bester, offensive lineman Martarius Terry, defensive back Jaurice Smith (the top scorer on the school’s basketball team) and running back Desmond Barnes.

They will help fill a spot that’s historically been difficult for GSU to schedule, since it falls so late in the season.

“We did not want Coach (Melvin) Spears and our football team to have a two-week layoff before the Bayou Classic,” Jeffries said. “Both teams, Southern and Grambling, prefer a one-week period to lick your wounds – but two is too long.”

Jeffries said he has not begun negotiations for this date in 2006 and beyond.

Quick Slants: Concordia College at Grambling
November 8, 2005
Concordia College of Selma, Ala., which will arrive in Grambling State on a four-game winning streak, remains a bit of a mystery. That happens with a first-year program.

One of 10 institutions in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod university system, Concordia is the only historical black Lutheran college in the nation. President Julius Jenkins – who holds a masters from GSU’s fellow conference member Alabama State – led the school from junior-college status to four-year accreditation in 1994.

GSU coach Melvin Spears began breaking down tape of Concordia’s game against Edward Waters College on Monday.

“We have to get our guys to understand that on any given day, you can get beat,” said Spears. “Last week was a testament to that. Knowing that that you are going to see their `A’ game should help our guys prepare.”

The GSU game is part of an effort to position Concordia for membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Division III.

Concordia (6-3) hasn’t lost since falling to NAIA foe Webber International on Sept. 24. The team had a pair of bye weeks then ran through Texas College, South Alabama, Edward Waters and Paul Quinn.

Concordia other losses have been to Division III schools, but they came early in the season – including West Alabama, the program’s first-ever game. The Hornets also lost to Millsaps College on a blocked extra point.

Not bad for a fledgling project that began with fewer than 100 kids in the initial spring sessions. Concordia doesn’t offer athletic scholarships but provides institutional aid for recruits to help with expenses.

“Webber is the only team that just whooped us good,” coach Shepherd Skanes told The Selma (Ala.) Times-Journal. “Our first full spring and winter conditioning program is going to be big. With one full season under our belt, we are going to be tough.”

Skanes, who was hired out of George Washington Carver High in Birmingham, Ala., is known for his so-called “East Coast offense,” a version of the spread offense run by West Coast schools like USC and Utah.

This date has traditionally been difficult to schedule for GSU – since it falls two weeks before the Bayou Classic, when most opponents are already playing a conference slate. Winston-Salem State, Morris Brown and Savannah State have filled the bill for GSU over the past few seasons.

“It will probably always be like this, because of the way the conference schedule is structured,” Spears said. “A lot of teams don’t want to play this late in the season. When you think about it, this late in the game, a lot them are in their conference races, so they don’t want to play us.”

GSU coming in high on ability; Tigers finish up home slate today
November 12, 2005
Slipping past the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion last week may have been the best thing for this streaking Grambling State team.

“It showed our character,” said GSU quarterback Bruce Eugene, who kept the Tigers undefeated in league play with a slim 32-27 win at Alabama State. “It showed how much we really wanted it at the end. You need games like that during the course of trying to win a championship.”

Grambling, which seems newly awakened, finishes its home schedule today with a 1 p.m. game against non-conference foe Concordia College – a first-year football program out of Selma, Ala. GSU secured a trip to the Dec. 10 SWAC title contest two weeks ago as the Western Division representative.

“We want to keep working toward the championship game,” said GSU coach Melvin Spears. “Our guys have a bunch of things to work on. Playing against an outstanding team like Alabama State last week showed that.”

Grambling had been winning SWAC contests by an average of 29 points, with its closest decision coming a month ago at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Though that was a three-point win, however, the final touchdown by UAPB came with just 25 seconds on the clock – so there was not much chance to complete the comeback.

GSU’s game at Alabama State, on the other hand, saw 21 unanswered points by ASU beginning late in the third quarter. The outcome was in doubt until the very end, when running back Ab Kuuan gutted out a critical first down to run out the clock.

“I don’t think it was that tough of a game,” counters GSU middle linebacker Dimitri Carr. “It just got that way at the end. We gave them what they got.”

So, the attitude this week was one of steady focus on an emerging Concordia squad.

After all, Concordia beat Allen 25-6 on Sept. 3, then topped Paul Quinn 21-8 last week – both common non-conference foes in GSU’s league.

Paul Quinn has lost this season to Mississippi Valley State and Prairie View. Alabama A&M also beat Allen 42-0 on Sept. 24, in its first contest against a SWAC opponent since falling 65-0 to Southern on Nov. 1, 2003.

There are other connections to the SWAC: The Hornets, coached by a former Alcorn State signal-caller who attended graduate school at Alabama State, are led by quarterback Ken Johnson – a junior transfer from Alabama State.

Like Grambling, the Concordia offense has seen fits of brilliance from a pair of running backs, Ramle South and Fernados Edwards. They helped Concordia to 300 rushing yards, for instance, in the Oct. 13 win over Texas College.

With Kuuan and Ruben Mayes healthy again for the first time since Oct. 1 against Prairie View, Grambling piled up 215 yards rushing last week – easily its best day on the ground in 2005. The previous high was 135 against Mississippi Valley on Oct. 8.

Kuuan was one carry away from tying for the most on the season so far, while setting a new personal mark for yards in a game with 164. The return of Mayes at fullback played a role in that success on the ground, as well.

“We had some injuries,” said Kuuan, “but we both are back now and it’s a one-two punch. We call each other `Thunder and Lightning,’ and it’s nice to have that aspect back in the offense.”

Meanwhile, Eugene leads the conference and all of Division I-AA in total offense. He remains, after throwing just his third interception of the year last week, the SWAC’s most efficient passer. GSU receiver Henry Tolbert leads the conference in touchdowns and yards per game.

Those kinds of stats might have fostered overconfidence. Before the trip to Montgomery for ASU, that is.

“If we had gone in there and blown Alabama State out, then we might have had a problem with getting up for these remaining games,” Spears said. “Now, we can parlay that into playing 60 minutes against every one of these opponents.”

Concordia at GSU
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
Site: Robinson Stadium
Records: GSU 7-1; Concordia 6-3
Series: First meeting
Coaches: GSU, Melvin Spears (second year, 13-6); Concordia, Shepherd Skanes (first year, 6-3)
Notes: Concordia, a NAIA provisional school, hasn’t lost a game in six weeks, beating Paul Quinn 21-8 last week. .. The SWAC office confirms that this game counts statistically with the NCAA since, according to assistant commissioner Wallace Dooley, Concordia is “a four-year, degree-granting school and their football team is a varsity squad.” … GSU entered the Sports Network I-AA Top 20 this week at No. 16.

This was more than just huge mismatch
November 13, 2005
Grambling State dismantled Concordia College of Selma, Ala., 82-7 in the most lopsided win by the Tigers since 1959.

GSU (8-1) has now won seven straight games. Former coach Eddie Robinson’s 93-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State remains the school record.

Concordia, a first-year NAIA provisional program, falls to 6-4.

GSU now has a bye week before traveling to Houston for the Bayou Classic against Southern.

“The main thing for us was to come out and have a good day and avoid getting anybody hurt,” said GSU coach Melvin Spears. “Now we’ve got to get ready for the Jaguars.”

Senior quarterback Bruce Eugene passed Alcorn State product Steve McNair at No. 2 for career SWAC touchdowns with his first scoring strike, a 47-yard pass to Clyde Edwards late in the first quarter.

He would throw four more touchdowns, completing 21-of-33 attempts against an overmatched non-conference opponent. Both Henry Tolbert and Moses Harris had more than 100 yards receiving for Grambling, two of nine different GSU players to catch a pass.

Concordia managed just 177 total offensive yards, averaging three yards per play. In the first quarter, the Hornets ran 20 plays for just 23 total yards.

When the score reached 82-7, officials then let the game clock run.

“This showed my guys where we’ve got to get to,” said Concordia coach Shepherd Skanes. “Grambling has a world-class program, so it’s a teaching tool for me. We’re just getting started.”

Ab Kuuan’s 88 rushing yards paced Grambling. Eugene also ran for a score before freshman Larry Kerlegan took over under center midway through the third period. Kerlegan then added another touchdown pass.

GSU even had its first special-teams score of the year when Landry Carter returned a punt for 63 yards early in the fourth quarter.

Grambling’s defense forced one fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by Maruis Binns, and two interceptions – including a final one by Antonio Rainey as the game ended.

Concordia’s lone score came in the first half, when quarterback Ken Johnson threaded a 66-yard scoring pass to Jamaal Stokes over the head of GSU cornerback Zaire Wilborn as the second quarter began.

Time passes slowly in a blowout game
November 13, 2005
This final Grambling State home game of the 2005 season began quietly, and not just because only 5,085 fans showed.

With in-state rival Southern and the conference championship game still ahead, not to mention an outmatched non-conference squad scheduled for Saturday, GSU’s players looked bored and restless all week.

It was a theme that ran through all of game day. Forgive me if, during a merciless blowout, I was keeping an eye on my watch, too:

12:01 p.m.: Perhaps owing to unfamiliarity with this first-year program, the Grambling scoreboard has the opponent listed as “Concodia.”

12:07 p.m.: As GSU goes through its pre-game paces, the scoreboard is fixed.

12:09 p.m.: Graduate assistant coach Marcus Yanez, a former GSU linebacker, talks with that unit about letdowns. “I don’t want to give you a history lesson on these so-called sorry teams,” he says. “Langston, in 2002? We barely got out of there.”

12:15 p.m.: Concordia’s linemen haven’t yet taken the field for Concordia’s pre-game routine, but one can be seen peeking out from a still-to-be unveiled display honoring Paul “Tank” Younger atop the hill by the stadium support facility.

12:27 p.m.: The first echoes of the Tiger Marching Band can be heard as the “Chocolate Boom” moves across campus.

12:31 p.m.: The team encircles GSU coach Melvin Spears in the south end zone just as the band makes its dramatic entrance into Robinson Stadium. Spears, who has been watching the team’s warmups, is agitated.

“It’s all right to be loose,” he says. “It’s all right to be confident. But don’t get lackadaisical. Don’t disrespect this game!”

His voice rises above the bright blasts of trumpet and trombone.

“You’re the champions! You better act like it! You better come to work!”

12:43 p.m.: Quarterback Bruce “The Big Easy” Eugene, leading a group of seniors to the field for pre-game recognition, is the first to touch the black-and-gold tape spelling “WIN” inside the locker room door on his way out – a team tradition. Spears is in his office, changing into the black suit that’s become his sideline trademark this season.

12:50 p.m.: Senior offensive lineman Tommy Dural, waiting for his name to be called in the Senior Day ceremony, reminisces with defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. “This is my last time down here. All those games we’ve played, and this is the last one.”

The display honoring Younger is unveiled.

12:55 p.m.: Spears, speaking to the remaining team members in the locker room, again reminds them to maintain focus on the task at hand.

“This game that you love is about preparation,” he says. “You can’t ever take anybody for granted. This is these seniors’ last hurrah. Let’s make it count.”

1:05 p.m.: Concordia begins the game on offense.

1:09 p.m.: Concordia punts.

1:12 p.m.: Grambling scores on a 5-yard run by Eugene, who would pass for 417 yards and five touchdowns before sitting down with 24 minutes left in the game. The ROTC guys in the north end zone do seven push ups, to match the score.

1:22 p.m.: After GSU cornerback Marques Binn recovers a fumble and returns it for a touchdown, the next Concordia possession leads to another easy score the other way. Keantwon Gray blocks a punt, giving Grambling a first-and-goal on the CC 3-yard line. The Hornets have run eight plays for minus-32 yards.

1:27 p.m.: Concordia finally gets its initial first down of the day midway through the first quarter. GSU scores two more times – including Eugene’s first touchdown pass of the day – before the Hornets get another first down. Concordia has run 14 plays for a total of 6 yards.

2:01 p.m.: Facing a fourth down with 10 minutes left in the half, GSU’s Ab Kuuan runs for a 19-yard touchdown. With Concordia receiver Jamaal Stokes’ lone touchdown reception, the score is now 33-7. That’s 40 pushups for the ROTC guys.

2:18 p.m.: With this 44-yard touchdown run after the catch by Tim Abney, Eugene has already passed for 257 yards and three scores.

GSU is up by 40 points – and there is five minutes left in the first half.

3:04 p.m.: Eugene, after being honored at halftime, starts the second period in the shotgun. Six plays and 63 yards later, he hits Reginald Jackson for a zig-zagging 12-yard touchdown. GSU is up 62-7.

The ROTC guys tell a news photographer that they have decided to simply do 20 pushups after every score from now on.

3:20 p.m.: Eugene takes his pads off after completing his 124th career touchdown pass, a 27-yard strike to Clyde Edwards that gives GSU a staggering 68-7 lead.

3:36 p.m.: It ain’t over. Backup Larry Kerlegan – who had thrown just three times before Saturday – leads his first scoring drive for GSU, finishing with a 3-yard pass to fellow backup Brandon Logan.

3:43 p.m.: Scorekeepers let the score clock run after Landry Carter runs a Concordia punt back 63 yards for a touchdown to give Grambling a 75-point lead.

The ROTC guys should be put up for Purple Hearts.

3:54 p.m.: A wave of showers rolls over Robinson Stadium, sending the sparse crowd dashing for the exits.

4:04 p.m.: Antonio Rainey’s interception of Concordia quarterback Roderick Robinson’s pass puts an end to things.

4:17 p.m.: Spears gathers the team in the locker room, garnering early cheers when he tells the players that Jermaine Mills’ folks are providing dinner tonight.

“You did a decent job of not playing down to the competition,” Spears says, then turns his attention to the approaching bye week and the Bayou Classic to follow.

“Now, we’ve got to have two concentrated weeks before Southern,” Spears says. “It’s been 365 days. That’s the one we want.”

Opponents no longer lick their lips over trips to GSU
November 14, 2005
A year after going winless at home, Grambling State has finished a spotless 2005.

GSU coach Melvin Spears’ squad swept its four opponents at Robinson Stadium this season by a combined score of 221-50.

“When teams come here, they’ve got to know that they are going to get our best effort,” said Spears. “What a difference a year makes. We’ve got some guys who are a little more seasoned, and our quarterback returned.”

Last year, with Bruce Eugene sidelined, GSU would lose to Alcorn State, Jackson State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama State – scoring just 23 points per game to their collective 34.

By contrast, Grambling averaged 55 points per game at home this year, beating Alabama A&M, Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern and Concordia College.

“It’s the most outstanding feeling I have ever had, after losing all of our home games last year,” said running back Ab Kuuan. “That made us want to work hard to win every game this year. It really means a lot to me that the hard work paid off.”

RIGHTING PAST WRONGS
History against non-conference teams tells us that Saturday’s GSU contest against Concordia might have been closer.

Think Langston in 2002, when GSU won by just a touchdown. And the early part of the Morris Brown game the same season.

Think about both of the Savannah State games in 2003-04, in particular last year when it took a last-second touchdown pass from Brandon Landers to Henry Tolbert for a win.

“I get nervous playing teams like this one, because you really don’t know much about them,” admitted Eugene. “Teams of this caliber tend to come in and play their best games against us.”

Not this time.

The 82-7 domination of Concordia fell in line with the way GSU used to finish off lesser opponents under former coach Eddie Robinson. Fans recall 77-7 and 68-0 wins over Prairie View in 1991 and 1980, respectively; the 74-14 victory over Mississippi Valley State in 1989; and a 72-14 win over Wiley in 1965.

Grambling hadn’t scored more than 80 points since 1994, when Robinson’s team beat Morgan State 87-12 on the way to being named conference co-champion with a 9-3 record.

GSU has only put up more points two other times since 1950, including an 85-0 whipping of Bishop by the undefeated 1955 squad that was honored this season at homecoming. Robinson’s 93-point win over Valley in 1959 remains the school record.


GET IN THE (OLD) GAME:
Back in the Day: Jackson State at Grambling, 2006
Back in the Day: Alcorn State at Grambling, 1994
Back in the Day: Grambling at Alabama State, 2007

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