If that seemed a bit too hopeful to fans fretting over a rebuilding Grambling squad that had lost four in a row after a season-opening victory over Alcorn State, it’s become clear that the team itself bought into Williams’ message. The youthful crew at Grambling has gone on to win the next three conference contests in a row to pull even with Prairie View’s 4-3 record atop the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Western Division standings. Prairie View, also in rebuilding mode, has skidded to three straight losses.
Then there’s Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Despite being decimated by player suspensions after a fight with Southern, the Golden Lions are lurking just one game back at 3-4 in league play.
In other words, Coach Williams had a point: This thing is far, far from over.
“I don’t think we can have a pity party over what’s happened to us,” said Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach Monte Coleman. A record of “5-4 may do in the West this year. We have to win these two football games to keep that hope alive. The West is not completely closed.”
Pine Bluff has beaten Prairie View and lost to Grambling. Even if Grambling wins out, it needs Prairie View to lose again. Still, to be in the conversation is a testament to both the resiliency of the Tigers — and the wide-open nature of the traditionally ultra-competitive SWAC West.
“We can’t get too caught up in being in the thick of it, because three weeks ago we were left for dead — and we somehow found a resperator,” Williams reminds. “It’s what I’ve been telling them from Day One: We’re all we’ve got. This is about self help. We have to do what we are supposed to do; we can’t rely on anybody helping us. If things work out in the end, so be it. If we continue to play like we can, then let the chips fall where they may.”
The season’s remaining two games will tell the tale. Grambling plays host this week to Texas Southern and then, after a bye, faces in-state SWAC rival Southern in the Bayou Classic. Prairie View, meanwhile, travels to Alcorn State than plays host to Alabama A&M. Arkansas-Pine Bluff travels to Mississippi Valley State this week, then plays host to Texas Southern.
“We’re still in the race,” Coleman adds. “If we win these two, it might be a flip of coin to get us in. Crazier things have happened. So, we’re trying finish 6-5 and see what’s out there for us as far as winning the SWAC.”