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

together.”

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

days.

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

halftime.

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

capital.

”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

turmoil.

”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

interceptions.

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

weeks.

”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

of communication.

”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.”