On Grambling State’s senior night, Cliff Exama’s 18 tackles led the G-Men to a 29-25 victory over the Texas Southern Tigers on Nov 12.
“It felt great,” said Exama. “Last year I got hurt in the third quarter, so it felt good to come out with a victory that we really needed.”
Exama finished with 18 tackles, 13 that came in the first half.
Last year’s battle between the two Tigers resulted in TSU rallying to overcome a 17-point third quarter deficit to beat Tigers 41-34 in an overtime thriller. The G-Men then went on and to defeat Southern University and finished with a record of (9-2, 8,1 SWAC). With a record of that caliber, the Tigers still weren’t able compete for the SWAC championship.
Instead of the Tigers putting last year’s heart breaking loss behind them, they played with the revenge on their minds. Just as last year, the game between the two Tigers was another heated match up. The G-Men ‘s sluggish start resulted in them trailing in the first quarter 7-0,their first quarter time of possession was 1:12. In the second quarter they came alive by responding with 14 unanswered.
Dawrence Roberts capped an 11 play 95- yard drive as he trotted in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown at the 4:35 mark and at the 1:09 mark D.J. Williams connected with “Super” Mario for a 5-yard touchdown reception.
Williams was 14 of 19 for 253 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
The G-Men were seemingly on their way to a 14-7 halftime lead until Texas Southern responded with points of their own. As time expired Riko Smalls threw a 34- yard pass to Richard Samuel to knot the score 14 at half.
In the third quarter TSU scored 11 unanswered points and the G-Men were facing a 25-14 deficit going into the fourth, but the Tigers resilience prevailed once again.
In the last period the G-Men scored 15 unanswered points to erase TSU’s lead. At the 14:56 mark D.J. found an open Van Phillips for an 8-yard touchdown pass and rather an extra point field goal, the Tigers converted on a two-point conversion with a rush from Jeremy Hernandez. On the Tigers last drive “Super” Mario secured the win by sealing an eight play 89 – yard drive with a 34-yard touchdown reception from D.J. and a successful PAT by Zoltan Riazzo finalized the score 29-25.
Mario finished with nine receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
“They have done it for the last three weeks,” said coach Williams. “It’s their character. We’ve trailed in Pine- Bluff, we’ve trailed in Jackson and we’ve trailed at home and they scratch and claw to find a way to win and that’s the bottom line.”
Conversations about Grambling State, the preseason favored in the SWAC West, diminished because of their 1-4 start, early offensive woes and growing pains, so discussions about them being a challenge for the SWAC title was unheard of. Now in the second half of the season the Tigers are making noise.
They’ve compiled five consecutive wins, including a win over the Tigers of Jackson State, at the time the best team in the SWAC. They’ve discovered two offensive stars and now The Tigers (6-4, 5-3 SWAC) sit at the top of the SWAC West with a one game lead over Prairie View (5-5, 5-3 SWAC).
Mario Louis, a former high school basketball player has preformed beyond well in his transition to football. He has 967 receiving yards, 1006 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns. Coach Williams raved about on his chances to compete at the next level.
“If this kid can just go to the league and say hey all I got to do is eat, sleep and drink football for my job then he’s going to be a good football player,” said coach Williams. “If Mario doesn’t get a shot then I’d say something’s wrong. It’s going to be hard to imagine with some of the people who I’ve talked to that Mario won’t get a chance to at least walk on the field.” He added.
Midway through the season Dawrence Roberts emerged as the SWAC top rushers. Thus far, in only eight games played he as 844 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
This week as the Tigers take off, they will be cheering on Alabama A&M. A Bulldogs defeat over Prairie View and a Grambling victory over Southern would eliminate the Panthers from any championship conversation.
The Tigers next game will be on Nov.26 against the Southern Jaguars in the Bayou Classic at the Super Dome in New Orleans Kickoff begins at 1 p.m.