MONTGOMERY, AL - In a hard-fought Southwestern Athletic Conference gridiron battle, the visiting Grambling State Tigers escaped with a 23-12 victory over Alabama State in front of a season-best crowd of 7,854 at Cramton Bowl.
Frank Warren scored a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 91 yards in leading GSU (4-3, 3-1 SWAC) to the win. The loss was ASU's third consecutive tough loss and dropped the Hornets to 3-3 overall and 0-3 in conference play.
"First of all, I thought we had a great game atmosphere today and I really appreciate our fans for coming out today in the cold and wind," said ASU head coach Reggie Barlow. "We felt like we had a winning game plan today, but we just made a few mistakes that were costly. We weren't able to capitalize on our opportunities and they were. That was the real difference in the game. We have to continue to stay positive with our guys and just keep working hard."
The two squads were nearly even on offense with Grambling earning a slight 337-301 advantage in total yardage. Both teams ranked among the SWAC leaders in rushing heading into Saturday's contest, the Tigers won the battle on the ground finishing with 206 yards to just 109 for the Hornets.
After trading a pair of possessions, Grambling struck first capitalizing quickly on an Alabama State fumble. The Tigers grabbed a 7-0 lead on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Greg Dillon to Kiare Thompson with 7:19 left in the first quarter.
The Hornets answered on their next possession as Jermaine Preyear scampered 23 yards for an ASU touchdown capping a five-play, 69-yard drive. Unfortunately, ASU placekicker Jake King's PAT attempt bounced off the right goal post leaving the Hornets down a point, 7-6.
ASU looked to grab the momentum at the start of the second quarter when Justin Wright intercepted a pass and returned the ball deep into Grambling State territory, but the play was erased because of personal foul penalty by ASU. Alabama State's defense stepped up again later on the drive when Rechard Johnson and Byron Powell teamed to stop GSU's Cornelius Walker on a fourth and less than a yard attempt.
Late in the first half, the Hornets mounted an impressive 12-play, 93-yard scoring drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown toss from Chris Mitchell to Robert Childers. It was Childers first career touchdown catch. King missed his second PAT of the game pushing his kick wide right sending ASU into the halftime break with a 12-7 lead.
Grambling State's opening drive of the second half seemed to be stalled until the Tigers' punter Fabian Carter gained 38 yards with a well-executed fake punt to keep the drive alive. Alabama State's defense responded two players later though when Adrian Hardy sacked Dillon and forced a fumble recovered by Powell. However, Mitchell threw his second interception of the day on the next play giving the ball back to GSU.
GSU's Rodale Pippen raced 72 yards on the next play putting the Tigers on the ASU three yard line. Two plays later, Warren vaulted over the pile from a yard out allowing Grambling to retake the lead, 13-12. The G-Men's two-point conversion attempt failed.
An Ari Johnson 20-yard field goal later in the third quarter pushed Grambling's lead to 16-12.
The Tigers closed the scoring late in the fourth quarter after fending off several ASU rally attempts. Warren galloped for a 40-yard touchdown with 1:51 left to play solidifying GSU's victory.
For the game, Mitchell was 14-of-29 for 192 yards and also rushed for 17 yards. Rahmod Traylor carried the ball 16 times for 60 yards. Nick Andrews hauled in six catches for 84 yards and added 104 yards on returns. Defensively, Hardy led the Hornets with nine tackles including two for losses followed by Johnson and Powell with seven stops each.
Alabama State concludes its three-game home stand next Saturday against Alcorn State at 1 p.m. at Cramton Bowl.