Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The time that Grambling played Concordia

Grambling fills date with Concordia College
March 2, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - The smallest school on a 2005 home schedule that includes Pac-10 power Washington State has created some of the biggest questions for Grambling State fans.

GSU will announce a slate that includes a November non-conference game against tiny Concordia College, a Selma, Ala., program that will field its first football team next year.

"They moved some dates around, because they wanted to come up here," said GSU athletics director Willie Jeffries. "They were one of the only teams that we could find who would come in on that date - and one who would sign a one-time guarantee where we do not have to return a game."

But who are these guys?

Concordia, one of 10 institutions in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod university system, is the only historical black Lutheran college in the nation. President Julius Jenkins - who holds a masters from GSU's fellow conference member Alabama State - led the school from junior-college status to four-year accreditation in 1994.

The Grambling game is part of an effort to position Concordia for membership in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics' Division III. Concordia's 2005 schedule also includes Webber International University, an NAIA team that finished last season with a 5-5 record.
New head coach Tim Perry, who briefly played collegiate football at Alabama A&M, was hired last June.

He was previously defensive line coach at Phillips-Carver High School in Birmingham from 1999-2002, then took over as head football coach in 2003. He led a team that had finished 1-9 in 2002 to a 6-4 mark - garnering City of Birmingham High School Coach of the Year honors - before being hired away to Concordia.

Perry came in confident, telling The Selma Times-Journal: "A 10-0 record would be acceptable our first year. I don't have a mediocre God. Why should I have a mediocre football team?"
Jeffries added that while many may not have heard of Perry's Hornets, the agreement ensures that GSU will have a fourth home game.

That resonates with fans like Paul Taylor of Grambling, who said he attends every contest at Robinson Stadium - regardless of the opponent.

"I don't have a problem with Concordia at all," said Taylor, a fixture in his Paul "Tank" Younger jersey. "I would tell fans just to come to the game and have a good time. I don't care if we are playing Timbuktu College at home. I am still at the game early for pregame. We as fans, and especially season ticketholders, need to be at every home game."

Perry's roster is still taking shape, but he hopes to build a winning tradition by aggressively recruiting outside of Selma. In fact, of the 30 athletes inked by Concordia on National Signing Day last month, 20 were from the Atlanta area.

Perry also recruited in Birmingham, focusing on Ensley High, his alma mater. Concordia got commitments from strong safety James Bester, offensive lineman Martarius Terry, defensive back Jaurice Smith (the top scorer on the school's basketball team) and running back Desmond Barnes.

They will help fill a spot that's historically been difficult for GSU to schedule, since it falls so late in the season.

"We did not want Coach (Melvin) Spears and our football team to have a two-week layoff before the Bayou Classic," Jeffries said. "Both teams, Southern and Grambling, prefer a one-week period to lick your wounds - but two is too long."

Jeffries said he has not begun negotiations for this date in 2006 and beyond.
Concordia's top signees

A look at some of Concordia College's top signees in its first season of football:

DE/WR Braylin Banks (6-3, 175) Towers (Decatur, GA) HS: A Top 20 DeKalb Country receiver. Finished seventh in last year's Georgia boys 5-3A triple jump and 10th in 300-meter hurdles.
DL Aubrey Boone (5-11, 240), Stephenson (Stone Mountain, GA) HS: 25 tackles and a sack in 2004. Team advanced to the second round of 5A playoffs.
LB Brandon Brewer, Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, GA) HS: 32 total tackles, tied for a team-best four sacks, as Cedar Grove went 5-5.
DB/KR Alviticus Bryant (5-9, 160), Stephenson (Stone Mountain, GA) HS: Had two eye-popping 92-yard kickoff returns. Also finished tied for seventh in the high jump at the 2004 Georgia Boys State Meet.
OL/DL Keenan Cody (6-6, 294), Towers (Decatur, GA) HS: Had 16 tackles in 11 games as a senior. Team advanced to the first round of the playoffs.
OL/DL Demonte Flemister (6-1, 235), Towers (Decatur, GA) HS: All-county second-team selection by the DeKalb Touchdown Club.
DB Cornelius Hall, Cedar Grove (Ellenwood, GA) HS: 72 tackles, fourth-best on the team, and an interception as a senior.
RB Shaun Jordan (5-8), Towers (Decatur, GA) HS: 506 yards as a junior; then 904 last season. All-county honorable mention. Finished fifth in 5-3A boys long jump.

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This was more than just huge mismatch
GSU 82, Concordia 7
November 13, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - Grambling State dismantled Concordia College of Selma, Ala., 82-7 in the most lopsided win by the Tigers since 1959.

GSU (8-1) has now won seven straight games. Former coach Eddie Robinson's 93-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State remains the school record.

Concordia, a first-year NAIA provisional program, falls to 6-4.

GSU now has a bye week before traveling to Houston for the Bayou Classic against Southern.

"The main thing for us was to come out and have a good day and avoid getting anybody hurt," said GSU coach Melvin Spears. "Now we've got to get ready for the Jaguars."

Senior quarterback Bruce Eugene passed Alcorn State product Steve McNair at No. 2 for career SWAC touchdowns with his first scoring strike, a 47-yard pass to Clyde Edwards late in the first quarter.

He would throw four more touchdowns, completing 21-of-33 attempts against an overmatched non-conference opponent. Both Henry Tolbert and Moses Harris had more than 100 yards receiving for Grambling, two of nine different GSU players to catch a pass.

Concordia managed just 177 total offensive yards, averaging three yards per play. In the first quarter, the Hornets ran 20 plays for just 23 total yards.

When the score reached 82-7, officials then let the game clock run.

"This showed my guys where we've got to get to," said Concordia coach Shepherd Skanes. "Grambling has a world-class program, so it's a teaching tool for me. We're just getting started."

Ab Kuuan's 88 rushing yards paced Grambling. Eugene also ran for a score before freshman Larry Kerlegan took over under center midway through the third period. Kerlegan then added another touchdown pass.

GSU even had its first special-teams score of the year when Landry Carter returned a punt for 63 yards early in the fourth quarter.

Grambling's defense forced one fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by Marquis Binns, and two interceptions - including a final one by Antonio Rainey as the game ended.

Concordia's lone score came in the first half, when quarterback Ken Johnson threaded a 66-yard scoring pass to Jamaal Stokes over the head of GSU cornerback Zaire Wilborn as the second quarter began.

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Time passes slowly in a blowout game
November 13, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - This final Grambling State home game of the 2005 season began quietly, and not just because only 5,085 fans showed.

With in-state rival Southern and the conference championship game still ahead, not to mention an outmatched non-conference squad scheduled for Saturday, GSU's players looked bored and restless all week.

It was a theme that ran through all of game day. Forgive me if, during a merciless blowout, I was keeping an eye on my watch, too:

12:01 p.m.: Perhaps owing to unfamiliarity with this first-year program, the Grambling scoreboard has the opponent listed as "Concodia."

12:07 p.m.: As GSU goes through its pre-game paces, the scoreboard is fixed.

12:09 p.m.: Graduate assistant coach Marcus Yanez, a former GSU linebacker, talks with that unit about letdowns. "I don't want to give you a history lesson on these so-called sorry teams," he says. "Langston, in 2002? We barely got out of there."

12:15 p.m.: Concordia's linemen haven't yet taken the field for Concordia's pre-game routine, but one can be seen peeking out from a still-to-be unveiled display honoring Paul "Tank" Younger atop the hill by the stadium support facility.

12:27 p.m.: The first echoes of the Tiger Marching Band can be heard as the "Chocolate Boom" moves across campus.

12:31 p.m.: The team encircles GSU coach Melvin Spears in the south end zone just as the band makes its dramatic entrance into Robinson Stadium. Spears, who has been watching the team's warmups, is agitated.

"It's all right to be loose," he says. "It's all right to be confident. But don't get lackadaisical. Don't disrespect this game!"

His voice rises above the bright blasts of trumpet and trombone.

"You're the champions! You better act like it! You better come to work!"

12:43 p.m.: Quarterback Bruce "The Big Easy" Eugene, leading a group of seniors to the field for pre-game recognition, is the first to touch the black-and-gold tape spelling "WIN" inside the locker room door on his way out - a team tradition. Spears is in his office, changing into the black suit that's become his sideline trademark this season.

12:50 p.m.: Senior offensive lineman Tommy Dural, waiting for his name to be called in the Senior Day ceremony, reminisces with defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. "This is my last time down here. All those games we've played, and this is the last one."

The display honoring Younger is unveiled.

12:55 p.m.: Spears, speaking to the remaining team members in the locker room, again reminds them to maintain focus on the task at hand.

"This game that you love is about preparation," he says. "You can't ever take anybody for granted. This is these seniors' last hurrah. Let's make it count."

1:05 p.m.: Concordia begins the game on offense.

1:09 p.m.: Concordia punts.

1:12 p.m.: Grambling scores on a 5-yard run by Eugene, who would pass for 417 yards and five touchdowns before sitting down with 24 minutes left in the game. The ROTC guys in the north end zone do seven push ups, to match the score.

1:22 p.m.: After GSU cornerback Marques Binn recovers a fumble and returns it for a touchdown, the next Concordia possession leads to another easy score the other way. Keantwon Gray blocks a punt, giving Grambling a first-and-goal on the CC 3-yard line. The Hornets have run eight plays for minus-32 yards.

1:27 p.m.: Concordia finally gets its initial first down of the day midway through the first quarter. GSU scores two more times - including Eugene's first touchdown pass of the day - before the Hornets get another first down. Concordia has run 14 plays for a total of 6 yards.

2:01 p.m.: Facing a fourth down with 10 minutes left in the half, GSU's Ab Kuuan runs for a 19-yard touchdown. With Concordia receiver Jamaal Stokes' lone touchdown reception, the score is now 33-7. That's 40 pushups for the ROTC guys.

2:18 p.m.: With this 44-yard touchdown run after the catch by Tim Abney, Eugene has already passed for 257 yards and three scores.

GSU is up by 40 points - and there is five minutes left in the first half.

3:04 p.m.: Eugene, after being honored at halftime, starts the second period in the shotgun. Six plays and 63 yards later, he hits Reginald Jackson for a zig-zagging 12-yard touchdown. GSU is up 62-7.

The ROTC guys tell a news photographer that they have decided to simply do 20 pushups after every score from now on.

3:20 p.m.: Eugene takes his pads off after completing his 124th career touchdown pass, a 27-yard strike to Clyde Edwards that gives GSU a staggering 68-7 lead.

3:36 p.m.: It ain't over. Backup Larry Kerlegan - who had thrown just three times before Saturday - leads his first scoring drive for GSU, finishing with a 3-yard pass to fellow backup Brandon Logan.

3:43 p.m.: Scorekeepers let the score clock run after Landry Carter runs a Concordia punt back 63 yards for a touchdown to give Grambling a 75-point lead.

The ROTC guys should be put up for Purple Hearts.

3:54 p.m.: A wave of showers rolls over Robinson Stadium, sending the sparse crowd dashing for the exits.

4:04 p.m.: Antonio Rainey's interception of Concordia quarterback Roderick Robinson's pass puts an end to things.

4:17 p.m.: Spears gathers the team in the locker room, garnering early cheers when he tells the players that Jermaine Mills' folks are providing dinner tonight.

"You did a decent job of not playing down to the competition," Spears says, then turns his attention to the approaching bye week and the Bayou Classic to follow.

"Now, we've got to have two concentrated weeks before Southern," Spears says. "It's been 365 days. That's the one we want."

NICK DERISO is sports editor at The News-Star, 411 N. Fourth St., Monroe, La., 71201. Contact him at (318) 362-0234 or at nderiso@thenewsstar.com.

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Opponents no longer lick their lips over trips to GSU
November 14, 2005

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING - A year after going winless at home, Grambling State has finished a spotless 2005.

GSU coach Melvin Spears' squad swept its four opponents at Robinson Stadium this season by a combined score of 221-50.

"When teams come here, they've got to know that they are going to get our best effort," said Spears. "What a difference a year makes. We've got some guys who are a little more seasoned, and our quarterback returned."

Last year, with Bruce Eugene sidelined, GSU would lose to Alcorn State, Jackson State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Alabama State - scoring just 23 points per game to their collective 34.

By contrast, Grambling averaged 55 points per game at home this year, beating Alabama A&M, Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern and Concordia College.

"It's the most outstanding feeling I have ever had, after losing all of our home games last year," said running back Ab Kuuan. "That made us want to work hard to win every game this year. It really means a lot to me that the hard work paid off."

Righting past wrongs: History against non-conference teams tells us that Saturday's GSU contest against Concordia might have been closer.

Think Langston in 2002, when GSU won by just a touchdown. And the early part of the Morris Brown game the same season.

Think about both of the Savannah State games in 2003-04, in particular last year when it took a last-second touchdown pass from Brandon Landers to Henry Tolbert for a win.

"I get nervous playing teams like this one, because you really don't know much about them," admitted Eugene. "Teams of this caliber tend to come in and play their best games against us."
Not this time.

The 82-7 domination of Concordia fell in line with the way GSU used to finish off lesser opponents under former coach Eddie Robinson. Fans recall 77-7 and 68-0 wins over Prairie View in 1991 and 1980, respectively; the 74-14 victory over Mississippi Valley State in 1989; and a 72-14 win over Wiley in 1965.

Grambling hadn't scored more than 80 points since 1994, when Robinson's team beat Morgan State 87-12 on the way to being named conference co-champion with a 9-3 record.

GSU has only put up more points two other times since 1950, including an 85-0 whipping of Bishop by the undefeated 1955 squad that was honored this season at homecoming. Robinson's 93-point win over Valley in 1959 is still the school record.

Only a number: Then at 7-1, Grambling finally moved into both the USA Today and The Sports Network's Top 20 lists for Division I-AA teams, finishing at No. 16 last week.

It's unclear if a win over an NAIA-provisional program like Concordia will help or hurt that momentum. The players, however, were pleased with the belated recognition.

"We always felt like we were a pretty good team," said Kuuan. "Bruce Eugene was coming back, and we knew the running game was here so we had that one-two punch. We've just had to come out every Saturday and prove that we should be up in the rankings."

GSU moved up three spots to No. 22 in the AnyGivenSaturday.com I-AA Poll. Grambling was No. 2 in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network list, which focuses on historically black colleges.

One more for the road: Eugene now turns his attentions to Southern, the only SWAC team that he doesn't have a winning record against as a starter.

Grambling won the Bayou Classic under former coach Doug Williams in 2001, but with current Baltimore Ravens receiver Randy Hymes at quarterback. Eugene then fell in 2002-03 contests against Southern - the only conference games GSU lost during those seasons - before missing last season's triumphal win with a knee injury.

Not that it's on his mind.

"When the opportunity arises I will take care of them," said Eugene. "We intend to go undefeated in the conference. That's something that hasn't been done around here in a long time. If we win the rest of our games - not just me, but the rest of my teammates - all of our names will go in the record books."

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