Texas Southern rallies to edge Grambling 23-17, OT
Moments after several heartbroken Grambling Tigers had to be
picked off the turf by their opponents at Eddie G Robinson Stadium
following a gutting 23-17 overtime loss to Texas Southern,
Grambling senior linebacker Steve Orisakwe faced a mix of national
and local media a proud man.
”I surely would do it all again,” Orisakwe said. ”Nothing was
in vain. This brought our school and our family and our team
The Pearland, Texas, product wasn’t speaking to Grambling’s loss
(the Tigers’ 13 straight and 19th straight against NCAA
competition), but the Tigers’ plight over the prior 10 chaotic
Citing poor facilities, undesirable methods of travel and no
explanation for the early-season firing of the head coach,
Grambling legend Doug Williams, as one the Tigers boycotted
practices and eventually refused to board buses for a scheduled
game at Jackson State on Oct. 19.
The movement originally appeared to a football thing, but
quickly evolved into one of the most significant sports stories in
the area’s history – although Saturday’s attendance was dubbed by
many as ”at” and ”below” the average.
Nationally, the Tigers’ mission went viral.
”It was extraordinary,” Grambling sophomore defensive back
Nicholas Peoples of Shreveport, La., said. ”We had seen on campus,
things were lagging, gloomy. We stuck together and stood for what
we believe in.”
Saturday was the first time players spoke individually since the
beginning of the boycott.
”It’s something they had to do,” said Jesse Jackson, a
Grambling graduate (1973) and former member of the school’s ”World
Famed” marching band.
”They are going to be alright,” Jackson said as the current
edition of the band played the popular hit ”Blurred Lines” at
Thanks to the stand taken by 83 players, many of the blurred,
sometimes empty lines of communication between students and
administration are on their way to becoming mended.
”Steps have already been made,” Orisakwe said.
The football boycott sparked students across Grambling’s campus
to voice concerns regarding conditions they faced daily and led
school president Frank Pogue to detail what he called a potential
”financial exigency” to officials in Baton Rouge, the state
”I’ve got nothing but pride for those students today,” said
David Ponton, the dean of students. ”The team came out hard and
played together, and the student section, SGA, and student union
did a tremendous job with spirit.”
Peoples, flanked by his mother, Lola, following Saturday’s loss,
was relieved to hit the football field again.
”I was very excited to get back on the field and play the game
I love,” he said.
Lola Peoples served as a sounding board for her son during the
”I’m proud of my son,” she said. ”I taught my son to stand up
for what he believes in and to stand strong and make sure he’s
doing the right thing.”
Grambling athletic director Aaron James said a victory would
have completed a perfect script, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Texas Southern (2-6, 2-5 SWAC) rallied from a 10-point deficit
behind backup quarterback Jamal Small, who plunged into the end
zone from 2 yards out to end the game in overtime.
Grambling quarterback D.J. Williams, son of Doug Williams, fired
two long touchdown passes (82 and 60 yards) to help push his Tigers
to a 17-7 first-half lead, but also threw two fourth-quarter
Small, who replaced injured starter Homer Causey in the second
half, tied the game early in the fourth quarter with a 20-yard
scoring strike to Jaquaa Peters.
Grambling (0-9, 0-6) left Texas Southern a free shot at victory
when Johnathan Wallace missed a 30-field goal attempt on the first
possession of the extra session.
However, James said Saturday’s result was just a small portion
of a litany of things to take away from a trying yet productive few
”Anytime you can sit and talk about things, it makes everything
better,” said James, who arrived at the stadium at 8 a.m. to
prepare for ”High School Day” and hundreds of prospective
students. ”Just like in your marriage, you have to have some type
”We heard them and they know we’ll listen.”
Although perceived as admirable by many, the stand also proved
draining for Orisakwe, who acknowledged to getting ”about 2 hours
of sleep a night” since the controversy broke. He said the Tigers
”hoped” they would get their message across, but didn’t realize
the magnitude of the situation until ”it reached” USA Today.
”There were negative comments on Twitter, and, on top of that,
I’m still a student,” he said. ”I had to wake up every morning
and go to class. Right when I get out of class, I had to go back to
the reality that we were on strike and everybody is either with us
or against us.”
Clearly Saturday’s loss will never be lumped with the previous
13 or 19 depending on which streak you pay attention to.
”This was a victory, a major victory for the Grambling athletic
program – from football to volleyball to track to tennis,”
Orisakwe said. ”Now the world knows who we are once again.”