Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Grambling

Grambling State: Tigers vs Tigers

Easily one of the more intriguing games on our schedule this year was a trip to Grambling, Louisiana to the campus of Grambling State University. Grambling is certainly one of the more renowned historically black universities, and occupies a rolling stretch of woodlands in North Central Louisiana. In addition to being an all black university, Grambling is worthy of intrigue because its prominence and national reputation belie its deceptively small size. The fact that Grambling has nationwide recognition is a remarkable achievement for a school with less than 5,000 enrolled students. In the national college football landscape, Grambling certainly plays larger than it actually is (you won’t find me driving 4 hours to go to a Skidmore College game) so we made the journey to experience it first hand.

Undoubtedly, much of Grambling’s fame can be attributed to their celebrated “Tiger Marching Band”. Made famous for their talented and unconventional performances, the Tiger Marching Band is showcased on national television every year during the Grambling vs. Southern game at the end of the season. The Bayou Classic is likely where most college fans have become familiar with them. However, the Tiger Marching Band has a laundry list of accolades that likely few other university bands in the country can match including several television commercials, a handful of presidential inaugurations, the first Super Bowl and many other honors.

A great video on the band and it’s history can be found here:

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/american-snapshot-grambling-state-marching-band/story?id=9463629



And a high quality video of a typical halftime performance can be found here:



Grambling is also well known for their former head coach Eddie Robinson. Robinson is a legend among College coaches, having amassed 408 career wins in his fifty six year tenure at the helm of the Tigers. This puts him in second place among all time wins for college coaches behind John Gagliardi of St. Johns, Minnesota. To put Robinsons longevity in perspective, Joe Paterno has to coach for another 11 years to equal the tenure that Eddie Robinson had at Grambling. In his honor, Grambling dedicated the Football Stadium “Eddie Robinson Stadium”.

Eddie Robinson stadium, aptly named for the legendary head coach, is an interesting venue. It’s not entirely a “stadium” per se, but more of a giant hole excavated into the ground filled with bleachers on opposing sides. It’s actually quite unobtrusive on the Grambling campus and difficult to spot until you know where you are going. While certainly not an enormous venue (stated capacity of only 25,600) it certainly puts you right on top of the action, and is surprisingly the largest stadium capacity in Division 1-AA football. Though on this particular day, only 7,057 packed the stadium for the home opener.

To me, the most impressive aspect of Eddie Robinson stadium is the fact that they bored a hole this deep into Louisiana soil without hitting water.


On the field was a SWAC battle of Tigers between Grambling State and Jackson State. Or, as they are referred to by the PA Announcer, the “G-Men” and “J-State” – evidently they are into the whole brevity thing. While the game itself was certainly not the level of speed and gameplay that we are accustomed to during our travels to BCS contenders, it was a hard fought and competitive game until the end. There were a handful of bone jarring hits that drew audible reactions from the crowd, and watching Grambling running back Frank Warren rumble for 256 yards on the day was an impressive display of talent. The game decision actually came down to the final play, when the Grambling defense stepped up and stuffed Jackson State on fourth and two with six ticks left on the clock to hang onto a 28-21 victory.

The Tiger Marching Band of course, was the true spectacle that we awaited at halftime, and they certainly did not disappoint. It’s truly in a category of its own when it comes to University bands that we have seen. While I was certainly impressed with the traditional drill of the Texas A&M Marching band (http://www.pigskinpursuit.com/2009/12/and-now-formed-at-north-end-of-kyle.html), the Grambling State band simply transcends any traditional band routine that we may be familiar with. While the performance starts out rather traditional (and impressive in its own right) it slowly builds into the unique blended art form that it eventually becomes at its apex. The Tiger Marching Band elevates the conventional halftime performance into a unique blend of symphony, theater, dance and art.

At the finale, the band actually starts playing and interacting with the crowd. It basically becomes a jam session where the fans and the band are rhythmically bobbing to the same performance, each feeding off the others energy and engagement with one another. It was more akin to being at a rock or rap concert, than a football halftime show. Amazing.

In the end Grambling was an extremely unique experience that we were thankful to have. It is undoubtedly a college football atmosphere steeped in tradition and pageantry well beyond its size, and made it well worth the trip out there.

Now for the answer to the question that everybody wants to know but is afraid to ask: No, we were NOT the only white people in the stadium on Saturday, although we were the only ones in the stands. Grambling’s kicker Zoltan Riazzo and a handful of other Caucasian players can be found on the Grambling and Jackson State rosters.

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Louisiana Tech: Bulldogs vs Midshipmen

While Louisiana Tech by itself would never merit a four hour roadtrip for even the most diehard of College Football fans, since it was a mere five miles from the Grambling campus it presented the unique opportunity to hit a doubleheader on Saturday. After making a quick getaway from Grambling, we hustled over to Joe Aillett Stadium in Ruston just in time to sneak in midway through the second quarter. Terry Bradshaw would be proud.

Joe Aillet itself was a surprisingly pleasant venue. While certainly not cavernous in size (30,600 stated capacity), it was a remarkably intimate and clean atmosphere, and had the simple charm of a beefed up high school stadium. We found free and easy parking about twenty five yards from the entrance, and sauntered into our seats effortlessly. Small stadiums do have some advantages over their larger, crowd choked bigger brethren. It also had a markedly different family oriented atmosphere, and makes for a enjoyable Saturday evening for Ruston residents. Given the small stature of the school, I was also quite impressed with the student section, which was fully occupied, standing and boisterous for all four quarters.


On the docket for the Bulldogs this evening were the the Midshipmen from the Naval Academy. Being an ND Alum, I’m all too familiar with the triple option attack from Navy, and they prove a formidable opponent no matter who they are playing. Of course Lousiana Tech as a member of the WAC conference is no stranger to shootout type games, and one can only imagine what happens when Boise State comes rolling into town later this year. To my surprise, the contest was actually quite close until midway through the third quarter, when the Navy grinding attack finally took its toll, and they punched in a few touchdowns. The Middies then ground out the clock and cruised to a 37-23 victory.


In all, we were quite charmed with the Louisiana Tech game, and certainly glad that we made the five mile detour from Grambling. While more relaxed than some of the larger venues we visit, Louisiana Tech has its own unique charm and there are far worse ways to spend a beautiful Saturday night than under the lights of Joe Aillet Stadium.

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Country Tavern BBQ

Country Tavern is a bit of a legend among Texas BBQ joints, and while not located in the famed “Barbecue Triangle” of Central Texas, it’s still widely considered one of the preeminent pit stops for purveyors of smoked meat. Tucked a few miles off Interstate 20 in Kilgore, Country Tavern made for the perfect diversion during our four hour jaunt out to Grambling.

Like any Texas Barbecue joint worth its chimney, Country Tavern is not without a bit of controversy over the last few years. Having been in business since 1939, Country Tavern has earned its reputation among the best in the state by churning out high quality cue’ for eons. However, a few years ago, they abandoned 70 year old location in favor of a squeaky new building. The stodgy faithful of Country Tavern have been quick to assert that the new location doesn’t quite turn out the same quality meat as the old location. Unfazed, we decided to give it a shot anyway and we strolled into the shadowy interior of Country Tavern and settled into a plush booth.

I was quite pleased to discover that regardless of the new building, the quality of the food was still top notch. The sausage was pleasantly spicy with a good snap to it, though I would have preferred they not slice it prior to serving. The brisket was solid, but not exceptional. It had a solid depth of smoky flavor throughout and just the right amount of rendered fat, but a more pronounced crust and smoke ring may have preserved some of the moisture a bit better.


The ribs were probably the winner overall for me despite the fact they were a bit non-traditional from a Texas sense. The ribs were tackified and sweet on the outside having been basted during the smoking process (the sauce had completely crusted onto the meat and fortunately they were not wet). The result was a sweet, almost candy coating on the outside of the ribs, which, paired with the inherent saltiness of the meat and infused smoke, created a delightfully complex flavor experience. They were actually very reminiscent of Chinese style spare ribs, but with a more robust smoke profile.

The only surprise at Country Tavern, unfortunately, was the ticket the waitress gracefully handed off to me at the end of the meal. I nearly spewed Big Red through my nose when I looked down and saw nearly fifty dollars staring back up at me in black and white. Our meat plates were nearly twenty dollars apiece…. I immediately calculated how much Snow’s brisket I could get for that hefty price, or a new snowblower.

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