HOUSTON -- Grambling State running back Martez Carter had to remind himself of advice he frequently hears from Tigers coach Broderick Fobbs.
"Coach always preaches that anytime you make a mistake, it happens for a reason, and you have to have a short-term memory," Carter said.
Carter rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown and used a dominant second half to help Grambling State overcome a 17-point halftime deficit and Alcorn State 27-20 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday at NRG Stadium.
Late in the fourth quarter, Carter was nearly in the end zone when an Alcorn State defender knocked the ball loose on the 2-yard line. Luckily for Carter and the Tigers, receiver Dominique Leake was in the perfect place to catch the fumble in midair and step into the end zone to tie the game at 20.
Like coach says, every mistake happens for a reason.
After a blocked extra-point attempt by Alcorn State, Carter used his short-term memory to put the fumble behind him and scamper into the end zone on a 31-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes remaining to give Grambling State (10-1) its first lead of the game.
Grambling State cornerback Jameel Jackson intercepted a pass at midfield with three minutes left to secure the win.
The game was a rematch of the 2015 SWAC title game, which Alcorn State won 49-21. The Tigers won their first SWAC championship since 2011 and 24th conference title in school history, the most in the conference.
"They put us in a bind and dominated us in the first half, but our kids continued to fight," Fobbs said. "We scrambled and made some plays and got some key stops, defensively, and were able to come away with the victory."
After dominating the SWAC in an undefeated run in the regular season, the Tigers found themselves in unfamiliar territory at halftime as they trailed 17-0.
"Once we came in the halftime locker room and saw how everybody had the same mindset, I wasn't worried at all," Grambling State quarterback Devante Kincade said. "I was ready to get back on the field."
Kincade threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 15 of 22 passing despite eight sacks.
Alcorn State (5-6) got 126 yards rushing and a touchdown from De'Lance Turner, who had 16 carries.
"We gave up big plays and those kinds of things hurt," Alcorn State head coach Fred McNair said. "It's just the way it happened and that's the way that second half played out, unfortunately."
McNair, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach in February after previous head coach Jay Hopson left for Southern Mississippi, guided his team past a rocky 1/3 start to return to the conference championship game. McNair is the brother of the late NFL quarterback and Alcorn State legend Steve McNair.
Grambling State will face North Carolina A&T in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 in Atlanta, the same opponent that beat Alcorn State in the same game 41-34 a year ago.
GRAMBLING STATE: The Tigers dominated the SWAC in the regular season, winning by an average margin of 31.7 points but had to overcome a sluggish first-half start to finish the regular season undefeated in conference play.
ALCORN STATE: The Braves dominated the first half and led by three scores at the break before losing momentum early in the third quarter and the lead in the fourth quarter.
After Grambling State kicker/punter Jonathan Wallace was injured on a punting play, he was unable to resume his duties as kicker. Fobbs turned to CB Abubakkar Conteh, who had never previously kicked for the Tigers and the team only recently found out played soccer in high school in Canada. With the exception of the blocked extra-point attempt on a bad snap, Conteh delivered, converting two extra points and handling kickoff duties.
RUSHING TO CONCLUSIONS
Alcorn State won in its two previous trips to the SWAC title game by dominating the ground game. The Braves more than doubled their opponents' rushing yard totals in the previous two victories and were on their way to a similar feat on Saturday, leading the rushing total by a wide margin of 173-96 at the half. In the second half, however, Grambling State outgained Alcorn State 79-16, a key turnaround that ultimately flipped the game.
McNair acknowledged that committing 15 penalties for 134 yards was a major factor in Alcorn State's loss of the early lead. Nine of those penalties for 82 yards were committed in the first half. Comparatively, Grambling State committed 10 penalties for 95 yards.
GRAMBLING STATE: The Tigers will represent the SWAC in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, taking on North Carolina A&T out of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference.
ALCORN STATE: The Braves are expected to return most of their starters on offense in 2017, including QB Lenorris Footman and Turner, and graduate just three starters on defense.