Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bayou Classic 2002

GSU's Williams stays busy in Classic week
November 30, 2002

By Nick Deriso
He admits, with some relish, to being a busy man.

Mostly, it seems, Grambling coach Doug Williams has been busy answering the door. He was just starting to warm to his subject - the words tumbling out like a solo, the thoughts connecting underneath like a rhythm.

Then it came, again. The knocking.

This being Bayou Classic week, football can occasionally be the least of his concerns.

"Bruce Eugene," Williams said, trying to start over. Knock, knock.

Williams settled back down into his chair. "Yeah," he yelled.

The door opened, this time bringing someone with something that needed signing. Outside Williams' office, there was a noisy war room of assistant coaches and players.

This uproar seems to be both natural and enjoyable to Williams. It hadn't been any quieter inside. Watching him talk, I had a memory of Keith Jarrett - who sometimes will become so engrossed in a piano solo that he'll actually come up off the piano bench.

Jazz will do that. Football, at least for Williams, does too. (Rarely moreso than this year, I'd guess.) Even before this latest interruption, there were only rare moments of stillness. Talking about his team, Williams leaned forward. He swung around. He looked about in wonder, sometimes.

His body language spoke of an enthused realization: How far they'd come! There would be no laurel resting for the winners of the 2001 Bayou Classic, though. An angry gunmetal sky and the occasional sharp droplet of rain wouldn't stop offensive coordinator Melvin Spears from running the Tigers through their paces.

Earlier he had appeared, determined to get the team up and running in a nearby gym. "We won't be playing outside anyway," Spears said, and chuckled.

The reason for all this furious activity: Grambling's biggest game of the year gets bigger every year. There were SWAC lists to fax over, travel details to iron out, national media arrangements to be made, rosters and conference calls and hotel reservations.

Meaning, sometimes there's very little football. So, it's obviously an enjoyable break for Williams, this simple talk of emerging young stars, and tough contests won, and the stringing together of championships - and, yeah, that time I cautiously picked Jackson State to win.

They didn't, of course. Grambling, we know now, would not lose a game after August. This is all the more surprising when you consider that the Tigers had leaked out most of a starting lineup through graduation.

But Williams (knock, knock) can't get on a good (ring, ring) improvisational run. At one point, the phone behind his desk and the cell phone on his hip had jumped to life at nearly the exact same moment. His trains of thought were jackknifing so badly that the conversation had to be continued after lunch.

"Busy?" he said to one caller, chuckling. "I'm busier than a one-armed wallpaper hanger."

Each of Williams' visitors passes under a single rough-hewn word, fashioned from black electrical tape over the door. "WIN," it shouts.

Williams said he hopes to do that this year, even as he reminisced a little. He played in the first Bayou Classic, a 1974 win earned out in the open of Tulane Stadium. "It was," Williams said, like a low trombone pull, "football, then."

Not anymore. In one half hour, Williams took three, six, 12 calls - an insistent jangle that would have made John Coltrane wince.

The enormity of an event like this might overwhelm someone else. After all, the alumni at Grambling would accept a one-win season every year … if that win was against Southern.

But Doug Williams, it's clear, likes this furious bebop - the never-ebbing flow of a busy Bayou Classic week. His broad smile says: The wallpaper will get hung.

Nick Deriso is sports editor at The News-Star, 411 N. Fourth St., Monroe, La., 71201. You can contact him at 362-0234 or at

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SUn again puts the heat on GSU
December 1, 2002

By Nick Deriso
NEW ORLEANS - The morning forecast here called for rain. What followed for Grambling State was an afternoon of pain.

Ominous fog hung over the top of the Superdome early Saturday. A light drizzle fell at an angle, pushed by sharply cold winds.

The Tigers would have to weather their own storm inside: Another slow start in a season that has seen several. That proved all the opening a hungry Southern team needed, as the Jaguars got up early and then ran away with the game. The Jaguars moved ahead in the overall Bayou Classic series by one game.

This complacent-looking Tiger team - coming off five straight games where it scored 34 or more points - made it easier by putting up just 3 points in the first half.

Coach Doug Williams stood in the Grambling end zone, an hour before kickoff, watching the Tigers go through their pre-game progressions. He might have seen the clouds building, even then.

"One thing we tried to warn them was that this is a very emotional football game," Williams said. "We had to get the upper hand. But they got it - and they got the momentum on their side. They played a hell of a ballgame."

With a trip to the conference championship game secured, another GSU squad fell into an age-old trap: Overlooking an always well-coached Southern team.

"It seems," said senior defensive lineman Willie Gray, "that we play down to the competition." Grambling simply didn't have the fire and emotion that Southern did, even before the Jaguars' canny on-side kick to start the game. The Jaguars were whooping it up, feeding off a partisan crowd that streamed in early.

That seemed to be the difference - as the Tigers couldn't get anything going. They couldn't even get a break. Kicker Colby Miller's third extra-point try hit the goal post, yet it still tumbled in. Later, Gray could only shake his head at the thought.

This game was an opportunity lost for a team that should have played better. The Jaguars knew it. Southern linebacker Lendrick Francois hugged a visibly emotional Eugene at midfield after the game: "Y'all are just getting started," he said. "Get you a ring."

That clearly was first and foremost on the minds of the Grambling players - and, right or wrong, it cost them this huge in-state game.

Tramon Douglas said as much: "You've got to move on. Our main goal was to get to the championship."

Southern's 6-0 lead at the end of first quarter was particularly deceptive. The score doesn't indicate how decisively the Jaguars were winning, while GSU wandered.

Case in point: The Tigers muffed their first kickoff reception, ending up inside the GSU 10. Next, Eugene had to scramble to recover a fumble on the snap. Five plays later, another mishandled snap gave the ball back the Jaguars.

No points were being added with this furious to-and-fro. But Southern was clearly gathering itself for a late-game run.

"We turned the ball over - and Southern capitalized," Douglas said. "We were a little out of sync."

The Tigers had a brief resurgence, as Eugene came alive with two TD tosses in the third. But each was answered by a Southern countermove.

The final turning point came when Eugene had a tipped pass intercepted, just as the Tigers had pulled to within a touchdown.

"It was big, momentum-wise," Eugene said, of the tip. "But that's the way it goes."

He paused. "That's the way it goes."

He's right: A Bayou Classic series tied at 14 apiece after 29 years vividly illustrates the evenly matched nature of this contest.

Anyone can win, regardless of record. Especially if you spot them the momentum.

That happened on an dark and stormy Saturday, as Southern - a team that reached .500 with the win - handed the three-time SWAC West champs their first loss since opening week.

Before the Tigers could get their umbrellas opened, a Bayou Classic victory was draining away in rivulets.

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GSU's Eugene breaks passing mark
The Tigers' signal-caller has 40 TD passes on the regular season
December 1, 2002

NEW ORLEANS - Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene came into the Bayou Classic needing just one touchdown to tie Doug Williams's 1977 record of 38 scoring throws in a season.

He didn't much care.

"I don't think about the accolades when I am on the field," he said, after Grambling fell 48-24. "All the accolades are good, but when I'm on the field, it's just me and my 11 guys."

While Eugene moved the chains for the Tigers early, more often than not it was on the ground. A memorable first-quarter play had a Southern defender's helmet popping off after he tried to tackle Eugene. The sophomore quarterback then rumbled for the Tigers' initial first down.

That wasn't getting Eugene any records, however. And it wasn't winning the game for Grambling. Eugene was worried about the second part: "Stats don't mean anything," he said. "The only thing that matters is the score."

Near misses in the first half included a key drop by Thyron Anderson with 3:31 left that looked like a sure TD.

Eugene finally hit Tramon Douglas early in the third quarter, a strike that pulled Grambling to within a nine points. He then threw well for several series, but great defensive plays by Southern kept Eugene stuck at 38 TD passes - until deep into the third quarter.

An 18-yard touchdown to senior wide reciever D.J. Clay with 6:12 left finally pushed Eugene past Williams.

"I broke it," a clearly dejected Eugene said, with little joy. "But a record is only good if you come out a winner - and we came out a loser. So I can't enjoy the record."

He tacked on another pass to Gershone Jessie that made it 40 TDs overall.

"I'm glad for Bruce Eugene," Williams said - though, he added: "I wish he didn't throw any and we had won."

The performance puts the finishing touches on a stunning statistical season, one that saw an avalanche of GSU records tumble.

Douglas passed the school marks for receiving touchdowns, receptions for a junior, and receptions and receiving yards in a season. All of those records were previously held by Scotty Anderson.

Eugene also broke the GSU record for most passing yards as a sophomore, set in 1993 by Kenneth Nord. He passed Williams' 1977 mark for passing yards in a season, too.

Eugene holds the school records for most passes attemped, most passes completed and most passing touchdowns in a season - again, surpassing Williams.

"I think Bruce Eugene deserves everything he's gotten this year - and will get," Williams said.

Time is on their side: A history of lengthy Classics continued Saturday, with the first quarter alone lasting 51 minutes.

The second quarter clocked in at 52 minutes, followed by a 25-minute halftime show. The 63-minute third quarter led to a 50-minute fourth, for a grand total of 4 hours and 8 minutes.

Injury report: A tough season for Southern quarterback Quincy Richard continued. He briefly left the game with 5:15 left in the third after a nasty hit by GSU's Terry Cooper.

The junior had already been knocked out of two previous Southern games - against Tulane and, in the season opener, against Nicholls State.

Ironically, Richard lost his redshirt in 1999's Bayou Classic, when he came in for an injured Terrence Levy.

Tiger tidbits: Grambling appeared in never-before-seen uniforms. The Tigers' jerseys and pants were white; the numbers were black with gold trim. "I like the new threads," said receiver Tramon Douglas, "but I don't like what we did in them today." Stripes on the hips and shoulder pads were similar to the University of Miami's uniform. ... As the home team this year, Southern's band appeared before the game and performed the National Anthem. ... Three scouts from the New Orleans Saints attended the game, looking for prospective young players.

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Williams dominates All-Time Bayou Team
December 1, 2002

Grambling State football coach Doug Williams received the most votes for the All-Time Bayou Classic Team from Grambling after polling ended Saturday.

Votes were taken online at's Bayou Classic page; visitors were allowed to vote multiple times.

Members of the All-Time Tiger Team, along with other selections, are:

· Quarterback: Williams, 75.3 percent; Randy Hymes, 17.3 percent; Clemente Gordon, 6.2 percent; and Mike Williams, 1.2 percent.

· Receivers (two): Scotty Anderson, 60.4 percent; Sammie White, 45.5 percent; Levi Washington, 36.4 percent; Nate Singleton, 20.8 percent; Jake Reed, 16.7 percent; Robert Woods, 13.2 percent; Silas Payne, 5.7 percent; and Ellis Spears, 1.5 percent.

· Running back: Wayne Hill and Brad Hill tied, each with 50 percent of the vote.

· Tight end: Andrew Glover, 72.3 percent; Mike Moore, 27.7 percent.

· Special teams: Trumaine Johnson, 62.2 percent; Kalvin Pearson, 17.8 percent; Ardashir Nobahar, 11.1 percent; Frank Bailey, 6.7 percent; and Lawrence Richmond, 2.2 percent.

· Cornerbacks (two): Calvin Spears, 79.1 percent; Everson Walls, 61.7 percent; Albert Lewis, 38.3 percent; and Thomas Griffin, 20.9 percent.

· Linebackers (two): Robert Taylor, 91.8 percent; Robert Pennywell, 60.5 percent; Terrance Dukes, 39.5 percent; and Valmond Brown, 8.2 percent.

· Also receiving votes: linebacker Fred Collins Jr.; tight end Tracey Green; quarterback Kendrick Nord; cornerbacks James Hunter, Ivan Geralds, Ivan Webb and Shane Oubre; running backs Walter Dean, Eric Gant and Robert Parham; wide recievers Dwight Scales, Fred Jones and Calvin Nicholas; and special teams players Bennie Thompson, Keith Smyre, Gerald Broadway, Jorge Rosales, Brandon Simpson and Dwayne Jupiter.

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