Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Grambling Claims ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT'S FCS HBCU Football National Championship; Final 2016 Top Ten Poll Released


2013 is a season that Grambling State University would like to forget.   They went through three coaches, went 1-11 and made national news as players boycotted practice and a game because of poor conditions of their facilities and long, uncomfortable bus trips to two away games of at least 1,200 miles each.

It was daunting chore for Broderick Fobbs when he was hired to bring stability to a program that was 1-10 in 2012.

"We were dealing with a fractured situation when we first got to Grambling State University.  It was just tough," Fobbs said Dec. 17 after his team defeated North Carolina Central in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.  "Our kids were broken.  They weren't very trusting of anyone. Who could blame them? They had had three coaches in one year. The look I got was a bunch of guys questioning - they didn't say this, but you you could see it on their faces - 'How long are you going to be here?'"

Fobbs accepted that challenge, restoring trust and pride in one of college football's most storied programs.  Now three years after going 1-11, Fobbs has led his Grambling State team to an 11-1 record and have been crowned the 2016 FCS HBCU National Champions in the ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT FCS HBCU Top Ten poll.

Only losing to FBS Pac-12 Arizona in a game they very well could have won, the Tigers rode a high-flying offense and a stiff defense and gashing running game they needed to defeat second-ranked North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.  The winner was poised to claim the FCS HBCU national championship in most national polls.

"It's a pleasure to be the black college national champions and finish the year undefeated," Fobbs said.

The Celebration Bowl wrapped up a wild FCS HBCU football season where some of the traditional powers struggled this season (Florida A&M, South Carolina State, Bethune-Cookman, Alcorn State) and others woke from deep doldrums to win some games (Savannah State)

Here is the entire season-ending 2016 ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT FCS HBCU Top Ten football poll:


1) Grambling (11-1, 9-0 SWAC)
2) North Carolina Central (9-3, 8-0 MEAC)
3) North Carolina A&T (9-3, 7-1 MEAC)
4) Southern (8-3, 8-1 SWAC)
5) Tennessee State (7-4, 4-3 OVC)
6) Prairie View A&M (7-4, 7-2 SWAC)
7) South Carolina State (5-6, 5-3 MEAC)
8) Alcorn State (5-6, 5-4 SWAC)
9) Hampton (5-6, 5-3 MEAC)
10) Bethune-Cookman (4-6, 4-4 MEAC)

TSU Falls to Duke 65-55 After Leading in the Second Half


One thing Duke head basketball coach Mike Kryzewski warned his team about was a game Tennessee State basketball team that would not be intimidated by his fourth-ranked Blue Devils or playing before a national television audience in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

He was right on both accounts.

Tennessee State trailed only by four at halftime and briefly led in the second half before two Duke runs ended the Tigers' threat as the Blue Devils downed TSU 65-55 Monday.

Luke Kennard led Duke (11-1) with 24 points with Jayson Tatum adding 14, including some big points that helped put TSU away.  Darron Redick and Tahjere McCall both had 14 to lead TSU (8-3).

The loss comes on the heels of an overtime loss to Duke's fellow ACC team, North Carolina State on Dec. 10.  The Tigers three losses this season have been to Duke, North Carolina State and Vanderbilt.

Kryzewski called Monday's game a tough one between two good defensive teams.

"They're a very good basketball team, they'll have a chance at winning their conference," Kryzewski said of TSU.  "I told our guys that this was the kind of opponent that you face in the NCAA Tournament -- old, really well-coached team, and they play defense and rebound -- in other words, the two things they do best are play defense and rebound.  So that's going to come every night.  I thought we did that tonight, or else we would have lost."

McCall's layup with 16:32 left in the second half gave TSU a 32-31 lead.  A Wayne Martin jumper kept the Tigers in front at 36-34 a minute later.

But Kennard hit two three-pointers and a lay-up during a 11-0 Duke run over the next four and a half minutes to put Duke up 47-36.  The Blue Devils extended their lead to 20 points - 59-39 - behind Tatum and Kennard with less than eight minutes left to salt away the win.

But it wasn't easy for Duke.  TSU held the Blue Devils to 28 percent shooting in the first half and 37 percent for the entire game. TSU also outscored Duke in the paint 32-18.

TSU head coach Dana Ford said the Tigers had some transition mix-ups in the second half, leading to some uncontested shots and brought the crowd into the game.

"Late there in the second half, Tatum really made some tough shots and really kind of took the air out of us, Ford said.  "I'm very proud of how hard our guys continued to fight, and we just have to try to learn from this. Hopefully we realize that if we play as a team, we currently feel like we can play with anybody in the country. But we're trying to get to the point where we can consistently compete against high level teams. Our goal is to win our conference and play in the NCAA Tournament."

TSU's next game is Dec. 27 against Covenant at home in Gentry Center.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Grambling Holds On to Defeat North Carolina Central 10-9 in Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl


With two teams featuring dynamic quarterbacks who led offenses at Grambling State and North Carolina Central to seasons where they led the SWAC and the MEAC in passing and scoring, everyone heading to the Atlanta’s Georgia Dome expected to see a lit-up scoreboard during Saturday’s Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.

The exact opposite happened.

Grambling held on to win 10-9 after turning to Martez Carter and a gashing ground game in the second half, while North Carolina Central was plagued by some big drops and a heartbreaking penalty late.

That penalty – NCCU’s Quentin Atkinson took his helmet off in celebrating his 39-yard touchdown catch with 2:14 remaining that seemed to tie the game – pushed back the potentially game-tying extra point 15 yards and turned it into a longer kick that Grambling ended up blocking to effectively end the game.

“I was excited to catch the ball and bring the team back to tying the game back up,” a dejected Atkinson said after the game.  “And really I was just too excited. I shouldn’t have taken my helmet off.  I apologized to my team. But it shouldn’t have come down to that one touchdown.”  

Grambling's win has led to them being proclaimed FCS HBCU national champions in most polls. 

It was a game where both teams’ offenses sputtered early on.  Grambling, who planned to focus on using their high-tempo offense led by Kincaide to keep North Carolina Central off balance, got into the Eagles territory on each of their first two drives.  But Kincaide threw an interception to Alden McClellon to end the first drive and then Johnathan Wallace missed a field goal.

North Carolina Central had the same issues, as Atkinson dropped what should have been a touchdown catch in the first quarter.  The Eagles ended up with a field goal on that drive, but after driving down deep into Grambling territory again on their next drive, Malcolm Bell was picked off by Grambling’s Deaumante Jones early in the second quarter.  They later missed a field goal just before the half.

For Grambling, the 3-0 halftime deficit was a wake-up call.

“[Offensive coordinator Eric] Dooley] came in at halftime and said, ‘Guys, they took their best shot and we haven’t even gotten started yet.’” Kincaide said.  “So what we did was just buckle down and when we got out there, we just took what they were giving us.”

What they took was an opening using a ground game featuring Carter and Jestin Kelly.  Carter had led a first half Grambling rushing game that totaled 73 yards at halftime, 45 by Carter.  On their first drive of the second half, they rushed for 66, 32 coming on a Carter touchdown run for the game’s only TD to put the Tigers up 7-3 with 9:14 left in the third quarter.

“Jestin Kelly is a ground-and-pound type of guy, and he really wore those guys down,” said Carter, the game’s Offensive Most Valuable Player.  “Then me, I’m just a home-run hitter.  You ground them down like that and then you put me in, what else are you going to do?”

The Grambling defense stepped up to force the Eagles into two three-and-outs, two punts, a Bell interception and stopping a North Carolina Central drive on five plays.    The Eagles only had one first down in the third quarter. 

Grambling got a 26-yard field goal from Wallace midway through the third quarter.

North Carolina Central got a spark midway through the fourth quarter as Bell drove the Eagles to the Grambling 44 before the game’s Defensive MVP Jameel Jackson stepped in front of Bell’s pass to pick it off an end the drive. 

“We ran a different package of four corners and we also ran two safeties,” Jackson said.  “For me to be in the game at that moment to make that play, I have to thank God.”

But the Grambling offense sputtered again and ending up punting back to NCCU.

With 4:03 left, North Carolina Central started at their own 41 and quickly drove down to the Grambling 39-yard line.  Bell then zipped a looping pass to the left corner to Atkinson for a touchdown that seemingly was going to send the game into overtime.

But Atkinson’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed the extra point try back 15 yards.  On the kick attempt, Joseph McWilliams blocked Brandon McClaren’s kick and it was retuned to the NCCU 42.  The Eagles’ onside kick was unsuccessful, effectively giving the win to a jubilant Grambling squad.

“It was just one of those situations where we had to bite down and play great defense and run the football,” said Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs.  “That’s what makes our football team a very dominant team – we’re able this year to win many different ways.  Today we ran the football effectively and was able to establish some drives and put what we needed to in the end zone.”

The day before the game, NCCU head coach Jerry Mack said his team would need to score at least 30 points to win the game and score touchdowns in the red zone.  Neither of those things happened

Bell threw for 240 yards and his TD, but had the two crucial interceptions.  He led the Eagles with 31 yards rushing, as the Grambling defense only allowed 55 yards on the ground to NCCU.
“We anticipated a hard-fought game, a close game,” Bell said.  “When the plays were there, we tried to make them.  We didn’t make some plays so it didn’t go our way.  Miscommuication here, someone falling there, you know, things we normally just don’t do. You can’t blame it on the stage.  They were just mistakes.

“If we had gotten blown out, it probably wouldn’t hurt this bad,” he said. “Us coming up one point… you can’t describe the feeling.  You just thought you were there and then it gets taken away from you.”

Mack said his entire team didn’t play like the squad that stormed through the MEAC this season.

“It goes back to poor execution,” Mack said. “A lot of those plays that those guys dropped, they were routine plays we normally make each and every week and also in practice.  They didn’t make them today.  Sometimes that’s what you’re going to get when you’re dealing with 18-to-20-year olds.  But for whatever reason, those throw and catches just weren’t there today.” 

While Kincaide threw for just 149 yards, Carter led Grambling with 109 yards rushing on just 12 carries.  Kelly finished with 65 yards on 17 rushes.