BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Grambling State and Jackson State have rebounded from hard times to meet for the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
The difference: Grambling's one down season was merely a brief stumble for a successful program. Jackson State, meanwhile, enters Saturday's game at Legion Field seeking its first SWAC title since 1996.
Second-year Jackson State coach Rick Comegy is hoping to restore his program to its old status as a SWAC power. In other words, he wants to make his Tigers more like Grambling (8-3).
``We're trying to emulate that type of football atmosphere here,'' Comegy said. ``I like their style and how they run and in order to beat them you've got to be fast to the football. That's going to be a key to staying in the game with a team that plays fast as well. That's what we're planning on trying to do.''
Jackson State (6-4) has won 15 SWAC titles, but was just 8-26 in the three seasons before Comegy's arrival from Division II Tuskegee.
Grambling has rebounded nicely from a 3-8 season in 2006, a sudden and short-lived decline that came a year after winning the SWAC and a black college national championship.
Rod Broadway turned things around in his first season as head coach despite losses to Louisiana-Monroe and Southern at the end.
``We could have turned a good year into a great year,'' said Broadway, who has since interviewed for the vacant position at Duke.
Grambling is 4-0 in SWAC championship games and is chasing its 22nd league title. Broadway's team won the regular-season meeting 30-20 in October, but he doesn't put much stock in a past outcome.
``That game is behind us. We want to move on and see if we can win this one,'' Broadway said. ``I understand the difficulty of beating a team twice, but it's been done before.''
If Comegy is trying to emulate Grambling, he seems to have done a good job.
Both teams have strong passing games and defenses. Grambling is second in the SWAC in scoring and total defense while Jackson State is allowing a league-low 278 yards per game.
Grambling quarterback Brandon Landers has passed for 2,380 yards and 21 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Clyde Edwards has 732 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns.
Jackson State's Jimmy Oliver has 2,301 yards passing with 17 TDs against just six interceptions.
JSU officials have said Oliver will not be suspended for the game despite his conviction on charges of driving with a suspended license and possession of marijuana in a motor vehicle since the regular season finale. He was convicted after missing a scheduled municipal court date.
Comegy's team overcame an 0-2 start to play for the SWAC championship for the first time since the inaugural game in 1999, a 31-30 loss to Southern.
``I really don't care how the game is won, by 100 points or one point,'' Comegy said. ``I would like see our team come out victorious because of the type of season we've had, the ups and downs, the nailbiters, the heartbreaking losses.
``They've overcome a lot of adversity, and I would like to see that pay off for them in the end.''
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