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Road to the Celebration Bowl

Grambling is SWAC champion and going to Celebration Bowl after winning title 40-32

Tigers defeat Alcorn State 40-32 and on their way to face N.C. A&T on Dec. 16

HOUSTON — Grambling State won its second consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) football title and another trip to the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta in two weeks.

Grambling and Alcorn battled in the first half in a game that was tighter than the back-and-forth score reflected. The two teams played fairly evenly, with Alcorn gaining 502 offensive yards while possessing the ball for 26:47 and Grambling getting 439 yards with 33:13 with the ball. The Tigers eventually prevailed 40-32 over Alcorn Saturday afternoon at NRG Stadium. The SWAC champions also won the right to play North Carolina A&T State on Dec. 16.

“When you go through what we’ve been through in the last couple of years, it helps you to admire … Michael Jordan and the [Chicago] Bulls, Tennessee with Pat Summit,” Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs said after the game. “It really helps you to understand the mindset when you are flirting with greatness. It is very difficult, but it is also a huge sacrifice. Not too many people want to sacrifice what we’ve sacrificed in order to be where we are, and that is why the hill is such a small platform.”

Grambling quarterback DeVante Kincade was named the offensive MVP and linebacker De’Andre Hogues was the defensive MVP. Kincade scored two touchdowns, rushed for 75 yards and completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards. Hogues made a team-high seven tackles with a sack and one tackle for a loss.

Fobbs said his team is looking forward to playing N.C. A&T — after some rest and preparation. Fobbs, praising Alcorn coach Fred McNair, said there were two championship teams playing at the Houston Texans stadium. Grambling put Alcorn on their heels by being explosive in the first half and were victorious because Alcorn failed to keep up and ran out of time.

“Being a perfectionist, I am not very happy, but I am pleased with being a champion,” said Fobbs.

At one point during the second quarter, Kincade was in a foot race with 28 yards on a carry, resulting in a first down. He said he dug deep to do what he had to do then, and throughout the game.

“Momentum is everything in a football game, and they took it in the second half,” said Kincade, saying Alcorn refused to give in, fighting until the final minutes of the game. “Luckily, we came up and got the W.”

These teams are familiar foes in SWAC title games. They have played each other the last two seasons, with Grambling winning the trophy in 2016 and Alcorn winning in 2015.

Saturday’s game was the last SWAC conference championship game. Starting in 2018, the team with the best regular-season record wins the league title and will represent the conference in the Celebration Bowl.

“It’s really an honor to be in this game because I feel like it’s going to be history,” Kincade said before the game. “Whoever leaves this game, the champions are going to be remembered forever.”

Now the Tigers will travel to Atlanta to play the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion Aggies at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The two teams will be the first historically black college teams to play in the NFL’s newest football and entertainment venue.

The Tigers football win comes a day after the men’s basketball team upset Georgia Tech when one of Tech’s players accidentally tapped in the ball to give Grambling a 64-63 win.

Miniya Shabazz is a junior mass communication major from Laurel, MD. She attends Grambling State University and is a staff writer for The Gramblinite.