The Grambling offense isn’t exactly where coach Broderick Fobbs would like it to be heading into the Bayou Classic against Southern on Saturday.
Sure, the Tigers have more points (441) and more yards (4,690) than anyone else in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and rank in the top 3 in both rushing and passing offenses. Combine that with their 44.1 points per game, putting them second in the Football Championship Subdivision, and any coach should be ecstatic with what he’s seen so far.
And Fobbs is pleased with what his team has accomplished this season on its way to an undefeated SWAC record and securing a spot in the conference championship game before heading to New Orleans next weekend.
But there’s one thing missing from all of Grambling’s achievements — the right balance.
The Tigers are almost perfectly balanced between the running and passing games with a near 50-50 split between the two this season. The run game has a slight advantage with eight more carries (371) than pass attempts (363).
Unfortunately, those aren’t quite the numbers Fobbs is looking for.
“Our focus from the beginning has always been to try to be 60-40 offensively,” Fobbs said, adding that he considers the offense to have a pass-first mentality. “I hear coaches all the time talk about being 50-50. Well, I don’t believe in that. I believe you have to be 60-40 in something.
“I think as an offensive mind, you have to create an offense where the passing compliments the run game or the run game compliments your passing game. It’s impossible to be 50-50.”
The most obvious reason for the increased activity in the run game has been Grambling not needing to pass the ball much this year, instead finding itself running out the clock for the majority of its outings.
After their initial two losses against non-SWAC opponents, the Tigers are 8-0 with the only game finishing within a 16-point margin being a 35-34 overtime win at Alcorn State. Grambling has outscored opponents 374-199 in conference play.
“That’s always a good point to be at to never be trailing and always be trying to stay ahead,” said Grambling offensive coordinator and former Southern assistant coach Eric Dooley. “Honestly, it’s just been a blessing to be able to get out to a fast start, and things have been falling in a good situation for us.”
The more subtle cause of the balance is the emergence of Grambling running backs Martez Carter and Justin Kelley, who took some of the offensive workload off the shoulders of quarterback Jonathan Williams.
As the second-team preseason All-SWAC quarterback, Williams draws a considerable amount of attention from the defense, which is why Fobbs said developing a more reliable run game was a primary goal for this season.
Carter and Kelly responded with a combined 1,430 yards and 12 touchdowns on 227 carries through the first 10 games.
“When they do put the ball in (the running backs’ hands), we make big things happen,” Carter said. “It makes other coaches kind of change their defense. It’s just opening things up for (Williams), and he opens things up for us.
“I feel like the way (Grambling offensive coodinator) Coach (Eric) Dooley is calling the plays is … very effective.”
Williams has still been able to get his touches this year, totaling 2,663 yards and 35 touchdowns on 197 for 345 passing but said it’s been a relief to have some help in the offense.
“They take a lot of the pressure off me,” Williams said of his offensive weapons. “I’m basically the guy that gets them the ball and leads them in the direction to go. You can’t say all eyes are on me because I feel you have to have a lot of eyes, because there’s a lot of weapons on the field at the same time.”