Redirection, same route

Over the past two weeks, the Grambling State University football team has suffered a drastic change in losing their head coach, Super Bowl XXII MVP and four-time Southwestern Athletic Conference champion coach Doug Williams. 

Some believed that dismissing Williams was the answer to turning around the football program. Despite the immediate change, one thing still remain constant; the losing. 

Three days after the university fired Williams, the G-Men traveled to Kansas City, Mo. under the leadership of interim head coach George Ragsdale, and dropped their third game of the season in a 47-34 loss to Lincoln University of Missouri, a university under the Division II programs.  

Although the G-Men lost in Ragsdale’s debut as the head coach, he said that the team has responded well during a time of adversity. 

“I think the guys are working pretty good,” said Ragsdale in a one-on-one interview. “They have had some pretty good practices and they were pretty good in the game. The guys actually came out and played a little bit better and with more of a sense of urgency.”

In the loss, a number of G-Men achieved season’s best. Junior starting quarterback D.J. Williams completed 22-of-38 passes for 323 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Sophomore receiver Chester Rogers finished with 12 receptions for 169 yards with two touchdowns, and the stat line that mostly impressed Ragsdale was freshman running back Justin Kelly. Kelly finished with 25 carries for 138 yards, and two rushing touchdowns. 

Grambling’s rushing performance impressed Ragsdale because he wants to implement a run-first offense in the Tigers’ game plan. 

“I’m a little more run-oriented guy,” said Ragsdale. “We don’t throw the ball, anybody can go out there and throw, but when you passing the ball, you pass with a purpose. We’re going to mix a little more pass and run combinations.”

Coach Ragsdale did admit that players were a bit emotional due to the losts of their head coach, which can arguably be the reason behind the slow start against Lincoln as they trailed 16-0 early. 

“I’m sure it was some of the guys with a lot of emotions, even myself,” he said. “You know I love Doug Williams too, but I think the guys kept it in perspective. We kind of figured that the way we can kind of let the fans know we were already in the right direction is to go out and get some victories.”

Grambling did not get a victory on Saturday night in Missouri, but the season isn’t over yet; and nor is the emotions gone. 

Ragsdale said he is pretty sure that some of the team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder for the remainder of the season, but he added, “Any little extra incentive that makes his guys play harder is a good thing.” 

Next up for the Tigers are the Hornets of Alabama State. Kick off is at 5 p.m. in Montgomery, Ala.