Bulldogs settle for Eastern Division TitleDecember 3
SWAC Championship from AAMU perspective
Birmingham, Ala. --With 11 minutes left in the game, Kelvin Robinson rushed 38 yards, dragging two defenders the final 10 into the endzone, only to have the touchdown negated for holding in the backfield.
Two plays later, on a quarterback throw back, receiver Neal Lindsey's pass was intercepted by Tiger Calvin Spears who returned it 47 yards for the touchdown, sealing the Grambling State 14-6 win in the 2nd Annual HealthSouth Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Championship Game at Legion Field.
The play, called Jaguar, proved to be the turning point in the game as A&M was trailing Grambling 7-6 when the coach called for the throwback pass.
"If we had scored, we were going for two to make it 14-7," A&M head coach Ron Cooper said. "The pressure would have been on them. That was the turning point in the game. We go from being up 14-7 to being down 14-6 in a matter of seconds."
The Bulldogs had a tough 60-minutes as the offense posted a mere 146 yards on 59 snaps, had only one first down in the first half and was 3-for-18 trying to convert on third and fourth downs.
A&M went three-and-out on seven of its eight first-half possessions. In the first quarter alone, the Bulldogs managed just one first down and had 34 yards in total offense despite having the ball for almost 10 minutes.
"We just didn't jell as a team," All-SWAC offensive tackle Kendrick Rogers said. "It wasn't so much what Grambling did. It's what we didn't do."
The Bulldogs rushed for 64 yards. Leading rusher and All-SWAC performer Curtis Donnell had only 21 yards. They passed for only 82 more. Leading receiver and All-SWAC performer Kenyon Hambrick had only two catches for 25 yards.
"The option passes we threw, we blew," Cooper said. "Routes were wrong. Protection broke down. That's the tough part. I thought we had a decent plan to make some things happen early in the game, but their linebackers whipped our backs and made some plays and we couldn't seem to get anything going."
On offense, that is. The Bulldogs proved to be stalwarts on defense as they held the Tigers scoreless through three quarters of play. Grambling was held to minus-12 yards rushing --that includes eight sacks of Tigers' quarterback Randy Hymes for a total of 53 yards.
The Bulldogs gave up the first touchdown of the game as Grambling scored on its second possession when Hymes connected with Ellis Spears seven yards out for the score.
A&M's defense accounted for the only Bulldog score of the game. With six minutes left in the first half, Servern Cannon forced a Hymes fumble at the A&M five-yard line. Donuell Fisher scooped the ball out of the air as it bounced off Hymes' back and returned it 95 yards, putting A&M on the scoreboard.
"We played a great game defensively," inside linebacker and All-SWAC performer Jamaal Ware said. "Every single guy gave 110 percent. They've been doing it all year."
The Bulldog defense set out to shut-down the dynamic tandem of Hymes and Scotty Anderson. The call was to blitz the quarterback and put All-SWAC performer Brandon Reed man-to-man on Anderson.
"The whole year people tried to blitz me and make me make bad decisions," said Hymes. "In the second half we came out and adjusted to the blitz and I was put in the shotgun."
Ironically, though, Hymes had better first-half numbers, mostly from a 45-yarder to Anderson that set up the game's only offensive touchdown on which Reed had near-perfect coverage, and a 47-yarder to Ellis Spears that led to a missed field goal.
Reed allowed only six catches for 139 yards for Anderson, half the number of catches he got in the previous meeting. Anderson holds all the significant receiving records at Grambling.
The Bulldogs end the season as the SWAC Eastern Division champs with four team members on the all-conference first team roster and three on the second team roster. Coach Cooper claims his third winning season as a head coach. And A&M stands as the nation's leader in rush defense with a handful of team members among the nation's best in five individual categories.
SWAC Championship Players of the GameAlabama A&M
Kelvin Robinson and whip outside linebacker Eric Chappell were named Most Valuable Players for the Bulldogs. Robinson completed 9-of-18 passes for 52 yards while Chappell had 10 tackles, including four for 27 yards in losses, and four sacks.
Wide receiver Scotty Anderson and defensive Calvin Spears were named MVPs for the Tigers. Anderson had six catches for 139 yards while Spears had five tackles, including two for losses of seven yards, one forced fumble, one pass breakup and a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown.