By Myah Taylor
For the fifth time since 2018, it wasn’t Grambling State’s year.
Grambling, the historically Black university in Louisiana, has not topped Houston-area HBCU Prairie View A&M in the annual State Fair Classic football game since 2017. That losing streak continued on Saturday night when Prairie View A&M left Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas with a 34-14 win.
Of the 53,971 people who traveled to the game about four hours away from each campus, only a fraction of that crowd witnessed Grambling shave away at its 27-0 halftime deficit in the second half. Most fans bolted for the exits after vibrant halftime performances from each of the school’s marching bands.
Things began to look less bleak for Grambling midway through the third quarter when true freshman Julian Calvez replaced starter Quaterius Hawkins at quarterback. Calvez, who went 5 for 13 and rushed for 34 yards on Saturday, scored Grambling’s first touchdown of the night on a five-yard run. The following drive, Calvez found tight end Noah Bean for a five-yard score.
“You should never feel like you’re out of a football game,” Grambling head coach Hue Jackson said. “You got to keep playing. Games can turn around very quickly.”
Turn around is what Grambling did out of the locker room, but those 14 points in the third quarter would not atone for Grambling’s first-half woes — or its late mistakes. With eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Calvez threw an interception at the Grambling 33-yard line. But it was Grambling’s muffed punt returned for a touchdown that put Prairie View up 34-14 and the game ultimately out of reach.
“I think we came out and played a great first half of football,” Prairie View head coach Bubba McDowell said. “We just got to learn how to close it out. Not making it a scare. … The second half wasn’t what we wanted, but we got the win.”
In each of Grambling’s four matchups prior to the contest held in the middle of the State Fair of Texas, the team allowed its opponent to score a touchdown on its opening drive. Grambling made that a fifth-straight game when Prairie View running back Ja’den Stewart rushed two yards into the endzone after a seven-play, 71-yard drive.
Grambling, which had nine penalties for 89 yards, struggled offensively, too. Of its 10 total first downs, Grambling had just two in the first half. And if not for Calvez’s efforts, the end of the third quarter would have marked Grambling’s fifth-straight scoreless period.
Saturday’s game was the 74th meeting between the two teams. Grambling leads the all-time series with a 51-22-1 record, but Prairie View has won the last five meetings. Both Jackson and McDowell are new coaches at their school this season. Jackson, who famously coached the Cleveland Browns, moved to Grambling after a stint at Tennessee State as its offensive coordinator.
This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.