HOUSTON -- Grambling State coach Broderick Fobbs was pleased with repeating as Southwestern Athletic Conference champions, but acknowledged he was not very happy after his team had to squeak by.
Devante Kincade threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores, and Grambling State held off Alcorn State 40-32 on Saturday night en route to its second straight SWAC Championship.
It was the third consecutive meeting between the teams in the title game. Alcorn State (7-5) won it in 2015, and Grambling State (11-1) rallied for a 27-20 victory in the 2016 championship. The Tigers have won 11 straight games since losing their opener, 43-14 against Tulane, and is 8-2 in the SWAC title games.
"The feeling is unbelievable," Grambling State linebacker De'Arius Christmas said. "You can't explain the feeling because we are back-to-back champions, but we feel like we are not done. We won the game, but it wasn't the way we wanted to. We weren't a great team, we won as a good team. We want to be great."
Kincade had touchdown runs of 14 and 27 yards. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Jones, and his 4-yarder to Quintin Guice just before halftime gave the Tigers a 38-10 lead. Martez Carter ran for a 5-yard touchdown and Marc Orozco kicked a 48-yard field goal in the first half for Grambling.
"I knew they would make a run at some point because that is the type of program they have," Fobbs said. "I thought that us being so explosive in the first half put them on their heels. At the end of the day, I thought they ran out of time."
The Tigers finished with 439 yards of offense but had just 76 yards in the second half.
"I saw the momentum shift and start to leave," Fobbs said. "Once it goes, it starts to snowball and you can't get it back and you're holding on for dear life. I think we learned a very valuable lesson that you have to play for four quarters, especially when you're playing against very good teams."
Lenorris Footman was 20-of-34 passing for 307 yards with a touchdown pass and run in the fourth quarter for Alcorn State, which was making its fourth straight SWAC title game appearance. De'Lance Turner ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Marquis Warford caught seven passes for 131 yards. The Braves finished with 502 yards.
"It's not over until the time runs out," Footman said. "We had to keep fighting throughout the year. I just kept telling the guys keep fighting."
Trailing by 30 early in the fourth, the Braves mounted a furious rally. Footman threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Norlando Veals, and his 5-yard touchdown run ahead of a 6-yard scoring run by Turner, and a successful 2-point conversion pass to Veals, capped the scoring with 1:50 left.
Grambling State recovered the ensuing onside kick and then went three-and-out, but Miguel Mendez punted the ball 40 yards to the Braves 2, and Alcorn State had the ball with 46 second left. Footman led the Braves on a 10-play drive to the Grambling 43, but his Hail Mary attempt was short.
"The second half we played I was very impressed with," Alcorn State coach Fred McNair said. "The way this team fought back, we did a great job of doing that."
Alcorn State: The Braves moved the ball with ease in the first quarter and second half in mounting their rally, but they didn't have a first down in the second quarter. The Braves were 4 of 13 on third-down conversions, but forced two turnovers and converted them into 10 points.
Grambling State: The offense continued to put up big numbers. The Tigers have scored at least 30 points in all but three games this season. Grambling's defense played well in the first three quarters, forcing two turnovers, which was converted into 10 points, but they struggled in the fourth quarter. The Tigers tackled Turner in the end zone for a safety to start the fourth quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAY
Special teams played a large role in the first quarter. Grambling's Bryce Williams recovered an Alcorn fumbled punt leading Orozco's 48-yard field goal. Alcorn State's Daimen Anderson recovered a Grambling fumbled punt that led to a 21-yard field goal by Corey McCullough in the opening quarter.
Miguel Mendez ended the first quarter with an 8-yard run on fourth-and-7 from the Grambling 33 to keep the drive alive, setting up Carter's 5-yard touchdown run.
Alcorn State ends its season.
Grambling State will defend its Celebration Bowl title in Atlanta on Dec. 16.