Here come the Tigers! Grambling has storied record

SURE, USC HAS A STORIED football history. And Nebraska and Michigan, whom WSU has faced a number of times over the years, are pretty steeped in glory themselves. But this Saturday in Seattle, the Cougars will take on new foe whose pedigree may just be the most glittering of them all --- and they're bringing a Heisman contender with them, too. In football circles, Grambling State isn't your standard garden variety Division I-AA school. Like their marching band, the Tigers are legendary.

Twenty leagues crowns. Eight black school national titles. And since 1949, a pipeline of more than 200 players to the NFL --- a feat more remarkable when you consider that the student body only numbers 4,300.

Cougars vs. Grambling State
4 pm Pacific Time

67,000-seat Qwest Field, Seattle


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This is the first meeting.

Cougars 41, Grambling State 14

Located in the small Louisiana town of Grambling, in the north-central part of the state about 40 miles from the Arkansas border, the university has been a small-college power for much of the last 60 years. Not surprisingly, the architect of it all, Eddie Robinson, is the winningest coach in college football history.

While Grambling's schedule is heavy on names obscure to Pac-10 fans -- Arkansas Pine Bluff, Alcorn State, and Prairie View A&M, to name a few -- the fact is that the Tigers have been a hotbed of big-time talent, sending a Who's Who of stars to the NFL.

The alumni roll call includes one Super Bowl MVP (Doug Williams), the first-ever starting black quarterback in the NFL (James Harris), perennial Cowboys All-Pro Everson Walls, and four Pro Football Hall of Famers (the Raiders' Willie Brown, the Chiefs' Buck Buchanan, the Chargers' Charlie Joiner and the Packers' Willie Davis).

Another alum who starred in the NFL, former
Vikings receiver Sammie White, is now the Tigers' offensive coordinator.

In 1971, Grambling had a remarkable 43 players in NFL training camps.

The legendary Robinson retired nearly a decade ago. But over the last seven seasons the Tigers have compiled a 58-23 record and won three Southwestern Athletic Conference crowns.

Last season they went 6-5 under first-year coach Melvin Spears. And this year, with star senior quarterback Bruce Eugene, a two-time All-American, back in action after missing 2004 with an ACL injury, most observers are picking them to be a top 25, and perhaps top 10, Division I-AA team.

Grambling QB Bruce Eugene has gaudy numbers, a modest Heisman campaign, and NFL scouts taking a long look.

Bruce, a 6- footer who has tipped the scales as high as 260 agile pounds, was a finalist in 2002 and 2003 for the Walter Payton Award as the finest offensive player in Division I-AA. He's being pushed by Grambling as a Heisman Trophy contender this season.

Working primarily out of the shotgun, he comes into this campaign with a whopping 9,122 career passing yards and 84 TDs. He's also swift for a guy his size, having piled up more than 1,000 career rushing yards and another 16 TDs.

Eugene's backup is no slouch, either. With Eugene out last season, then-freshman Brandon Landers took over the helm and fired for 2,283 yards and 18 touchdowns.

The Tigers also return their top running back from a year ago in Landry Carter, who produced 1,046 all-purpose yards in 2004. Also in the backfield is a guy with a familiar name -- Ruben Mayes. WSU's legendary back of the 1980s spelled it Rueben.

Grambling opened the season on Saturday with a 44-0 home victory over Alabama A&M. Eugene threw for 275 yards and three TDs.

The Tigers were to have opened the season Sept. 3 at Alcorn State, but the game was called off due to Hurricane Katrina-induced power outages throughout that part of Mississippi. Grambling head coach Melvin Spears, an Alcorn grad, isn't buying it, though. He said he'll pursue a forfeit victory because Alcorn "had every opportunity to play the game" but declined. Alcorn wants to reschedule for Dec. 3, but Spears --- likely thinking ahead to the playoffs --- said his team's regular season will end as scheduled on Nov. 26.

Bring a backpack to Qwest Field on Saturday! WSU is teaming up with New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason, a star linebacker for the Cougars from 1996-2000, to help kids whose educations have been sidetracked by Hurricane Katrina. Gleason and the WSU College of Education have launched a program to collect backpacks filled with school supplies for children. The filled backpacks can be dropped off at Qwest Field on Saturday when the Cougars. To help out, simply choose a grade level, buy a new backpack and load it up with supplies appropriate for that grade. Please label the pack with the grade level.


* In addition to halftime festivities, fans Saturday will be treated to a "fifth quarter" concert by the World-Famed Tiger Marching Band.

* Grambling will be WSU's first Division I-AA opponent since taking on Montana State in both 2002 and 2003. The Cougars did not need to count either victory in order to be bowl eligible those seasons, so this one is available if needed.

* The Cougars will be the Tigers' first Division I-A opponent since San Jose State handed them a 29-0 setback in 2003. More than 43,000 fans attended that game --- 33,000 more than San Jose State's home-game average. That speaks to the power of Grambling's amazing marching band.

* Saturday will mark the fourth consecutive season WSU has played a home game in Seattle and reaffirms school President Lane Rawlins' stated intention of making the journey into the single-largest market of crimson graduates an annual tradition. In 2002 the Cougars faced Nevada. The year after it was Idaho and last season Colorado. The average attendance of those games has been 56,000.

* The Tigers' offensive line averages more than 300 pounds per man.

* Grambling is guaranteed a $500,000 payday for making the trip to Seattle.

* Grambling unquestionably is a football school, but its most famous athletic alum may well basketballer Willis Reed, the legendary New York Knicks center of the 1970s.

* WSU has sold about 35,000 tickets to Saturdays game so far. As many as 10,000 are expected to buy tickets at Qwest Field.


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