Article written by Marva Nichols
DALLAS, TX | What an exhilarating and electrifying night it was for Coach Hue Jackson, the G-Men, and Gramfam, both near and far, on a warm and vibrant fall evening at the 2023 Texas State Fair Classic!
The anticipation had been building for weeks. The State Fair Classic is not just a football game; it is a tradition, a rivalry, a spectacle that brought more than 52,000 Grambling State University and Prairie View A&M fans and supporters together.
Entering his second season, Coach Hue Jackson brought an unmistakable aura of change to the Grambling State football program. Fondly referred to as "Coach Jack" by his star quarterback, Myles Crawley, he has injected a renewed vigor and unwavering determination into the G-Men, a gradual transformation that has not gone unnoticed by the Grambling faithful. Coach Hue Jackson has revitalized the G-Men, infusing them with a newfound purpose. The prevailing sentiment is one of unwavering commitment to "dominate" in every facet of the game.
On their journey of redemption, Grambling State celebrated a long-awaited victory over Prairie View A&M in the State Fair Classic, marking their first triumph since 2017. On a Saturday night at the Cotton Bowl, GSU convincingly defeated PVAMU with a final score of 35-20.
This victory elevated Grambling State's overall record to 3-2 and maintained their perfect 2-0 record in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Meanwhile, Prairie View A&M's record fell to 2-3, with a 2-1 conference standing.
Grambling State, fueled by an explosive offense, took the field with one goal in mind: to outshine their rivals. They accomplished just that, accumulating a staggering 451 yards of total offense. The Tigers' ground game was particularly dominant, with 39 carries amassing an impressive 210 yards. Their relentless attack led to a total of 26 first downs, showcasing their ability to consistently move the chains.
Myles Crawley continued to demonstrate his prowess as one of the SWAC's top quarterbacks, throwing for 241 yards and two touchdowns on 25-of-40 passing. Impressively, he connected with eight different receivers during the game. Lyndon Rash had two touchdowns and Javon Robinson emerged as a key playmaker for Grambling State, leading the receiving corps with seven receptions for 64 yards. His reliable hands and precise route-running proved pivotal in sustaining drives and keeping the Panthers' defense on its toes.
The Grambling rushing attack remained formidable, amassing over 200 yards against their SWAC opponent for the second consecutive week. Floyd Chalk led the Tigers in rushing with 84 yards gained on 15 carries, including a touchdown. Chance Williams also made a significant contribution, rushing for 75 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Time of possession was another area where Grambling State asserted their dominance, holding the ball for an astounding 37 minutes and 22 seconds. This not only allowed them to control the tempo of the game but also limited Prairie View A&M's opportunities to make an impact.
Collectively, Grambling State gained a total of 451 yards during the game.
On the defensive front, Lewis Matthews and Javon Carter posed significant challenges for the Panthers. Matthews led the game with nine tackles, while Carter made eight stops and recorded two sacks. The G-Men defense achieved a season-high with four sacks.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Tigers. They found themselves hindered by penalties, racking up 11 infractions for a total of 70 yards. Despite this, they displayed resilience on crucial downs, converting 7 of 18 third-down attempts and going a perfect 3 for 3 on fourth-down conversions. Their efficiency inside the red zone was impeccable, as they capitalized on all six trips, turning each opportunity into points on the board.
Tanner Rinker was responsible for all of Grambling State's scoring in the first quarter, converting a pair of field goals from 28 and 32 yards. This kept the Tigers within striking distance as they entered the second quarter trailing PVAMU 7-6.
On the other side of the field, Prairie View A&M put up a commendable fight, registering 15 first downs and gaining 365 yards of total offense. Tre'Jon Spiller was the standout performer for the Panthers, hauling in four catches for an impressive 108 yards. Despite their offensive prowess, Prairie View A&M struggled on third downs, converting only 3 of 11 attempts.
In a crucial moment with the Panthers leading 10-9, Grambling State took possession of the ball at their own 48-yard line with 6:38 left in the half. They executed a successful drive, advancing the ball to the PVAMU 12-yard line, where Crawley found Lyndon Rash in the right side of the end zone. Rinker added the extra point, granting GSU a 16-10 lead with just 1:18 remaining in the half.
On the subsequent drive, Prairie View A&M swiftly advanced the ball to the GSU 5-yard line. However, Carlos Vallagomez's 22-yard field goal attempt veered wide-left, allowing the Tigers to maintain their lead as they headed into the locker room.
In the third quarter, PVAMU's Villagomez narrowed GSU's advantage to 16-13 by converting a 42-yard field goal with 6:18 remaining in the period. Crawley took charge and guided Grambling through an 11-play, 87-yard drive, consuming 5 minutes and 2 seconds of game time. The redshirt-junior quarterback once again connected with Rash, this time for a 6-yard TD pass. However, the 2-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Tigers with a 22-13 lead as the clock ticked down to 1:06.
Prairie View A&M swiftly counterattacked when Conner Wisham broke free for a 53-yard touchdown run, narrowing the gap to 22-20 in favor of GSU with only 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
On GSU's first drive in the fourth quarter, Crawley continued to dismantle the PVAMU secondary. He made a 30-yard pass to Rash, positioning the ball at the Prairie View 28-yard line. Javon Robinson then turned a short pass into a 16-yard reception, granting the Tigers a first and 10 at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, Chance Williams powered into the end zone with a 4-yard TD run, extending the lead to 29-20 with 12:44 left in the game.
Cedric Anderson contributed a pivotal moment for GSU, securing his team-leading second interception of the year with 8:12 remaining.
Floyd Chalk effectively sealed the game with a 3-yard touchdown rush, securing victory for Grambling State with just 39 seconds left on the clock.
Prairie View A&M's offensive efforts were led by starting QB Trazon Connley, who completed 11-of-23 passes for 223 yards and an interception. Collectively, PVAMU amassed 365 yards of offense during the game.
Ultimately, the game served as a testament to the unwavering tenacity and skill displayed by both teams. However, it was Grambling State's commanding statistics that clinched the victory.
The night concluded with the trophy presentation, a jubilant scene that radiated with the essence of HBCU excellence. With uplifted fingers, everyone joined in singing the heartfelt alma mater, "Old Grambling, Dear Grambling," a fitting end to a triumphant evening.
Photo and video credits: Marva Nichols