He might not be a secret weapon, but Grambling State quarterback Noah Bodden broke through with a timely performance for the struggling Tigers in their stunning 37-28 victory against reigning SWAC champion Alabama A&M Saturday.
Grambling, which had lost six consecutive conference games, rallied from a 14-0 deficit to score 34 unanswered points. When the visitors rallied to get within one score, the defense came up with an interception to set up a game-clinching field goal.
The big news was strong play from Bodden, who passed for 191 yards and three touchdowns to win Southwestern Athletic Conference offensive player of the week honors. He didn’t exactly outduel A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass, who threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns, but he got the job done at a position of need.
A 6-feet-4, 218-pounder freshman from Valley Stream, N.Y., Bodden is the third player to start at quarterback for Grambling (1-3, 1-1, but has been on campus less than a three months. He threw his first 11 college passes the week before in a loss to Prairie View.
“We knew how talented Noah was but wanted to make sure we took care of him as a young kid,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. “He got here in the second week of July. It would have been unfair to throw him in against the caliber of talent we’ve been playing (Southern Miss, Houston).
“The talent is there. We wanted to give him the same amount of time (three months) we gave everyone else. He made a lot of mistakes, but that’s to be expected in your first start. We’re looking for him to improve and grow.”
The Grambling defense bent but didn’t break. The Tigers intercepted four Glass passes, broke up 12 and sacked him four times. Glass completed 36 of 62 throws.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff broke through to win the SWAC West Division in the abbreviated spring season, but it isn’t likely to repeat.
The Lions are 0-2 in conference play, both losses to West Division teams, after a disheartening 27-17 loss to Prairie View. The Lions had 185 yards, including 19 rushing, and the defense allowed 293 yards rushing.
“Not a very good showing, we didn’t play well on offense or defense,” UAPB coach Doc Gamble said. “Prairie View had a great game plan and executed it. They stifled us and did what they wanted to offensively as well. We’ve got to find a way to play well all the time and bounce back.”
Quarterback Skyler Perry (9 for 29, 51 yards) was benched in favor of Xzavier Vaugh, who threw an 82-yard scoring pass to Josh Wilkes. The Lions' only other TD came on a blocked punt scoop-and-score in the fourth quarter.
The Lions play at Alabama State before returning home to host Southern Oct. 16.
Valley of Miracles
Victories have been few and far between for Mississippi Valley State but Saturday’s 17-16 home win will go down as one of its most memorable, if not miraculous.
The Delta Devils scored on the game’s final play and kicked the PAT with no time remaining for its first win this season and fourth in three seasons. The Devils other TD came on the final play of the first half when Volme Swanier returned an interception 41 yards to tie the game at 10.
NCC scored with 25 seconds left to break the tie, but Adrian Olivio missed the PAT kick. Valley got the ball near midfield with 19 seconds left and quarterback Jalani Eason connected with Jacory Raskin on a 44-yard pass to the NCC 2-yard line. Eason then flipped a scoring pass to running back Caleb Johnson and Orlando booted the game winning point.
“We play tough and hard but always find a way to beat ourselves,” Delta Devils coach Vincent Dancy said. “This week, we found a way to win. I’m so proud of our guys. It’s bigger than us. We needed this, the team, the school, the town of Itta Bena. We believed we could win that game with 25 seconds left.”
Hornets fire coordinator
Alabama State coach Donald Hill-Eley announced on Monday that offensive coordinator Joe Blackwell had been relieved of his duties.
“After assessing where we are offensively after the first four games, I believe a change in direction is needed,” Hill-Eley said. “I want to thank coach Blackwell for his efforts and contributions to our program after he came in during a time of need.”
Blackwell was in his third season directing the offense for Alabama State, leading the team in the spring to 23.8 points per game and 355.8 yards of total offense per game. This season, the Hornets are averaging just 13 points per game through the first four.
Week 5 schedule
Jackson State at Alabama A&M; Mississippi Valley State at Bethune-Cookman; Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alabama State; South Carolina State at Florida A&M; Grambling at Alcorn State; Southern vs. Texas Southern (Arlington Classic). Open: Prairie View.
Players of the Week
Bodden, defensive lineman Cameron Richardson and kicker Garret Urban made it a clean sweep for Grambling in the SWAC player of the week awards.
Richardson had a scoop-and-score fumble recovery in the 24-point second quarter and his interception set up a field goal with 43 seconds left that sealed the game for the Tigers. Urban made field goals of 27, 27 and 39 yards and all four PATs.