GRAMBLING, La. — Geremy Hickbottom threw a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime and the Grambling State University defense held off Arkansas-Pine Bluff on fourth down to rally for a 45-38 Southwestern Athletic Conference victory on Saturday afternoon at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.
The Tigers (4-4 overall, 3-2 SWAC) trailed 38-35 with 4:05 remaining, but Hickbottom led the Tigers down the field with an 11-play, 72-yard drive as Marc Orozco, who became the GSU and SWAC all-time career leader in points scored in the second quarter, booted a 20-yard field goal with 46 seconds left in regulation, tying the game at 38.
The Golden Lions (1-7, 0-4) had a chance to drive for the potential winning score in the final 40 seconds but could not get past their own 40 as time expired.
Grambling State got the ball to begin overtime, and Hickbottom wasted no time as he connected with Darrell Clark for a 25-yard touchdown on the very first play of the extra period to give Grambling State a 45-38 lead.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff got the ball for its overtime possession and were aided by a passing interference call on fourth down, which kept the drive alive. The Tiger defense was able to stop UAPB on three straight downs and forced a fourth-and-four from the GSU 7.
After a timeout, Skyler Perry's 7-yard pass to Kolby McNeal was initially ruled a catch on the field by officials, but the play was overturned after the replay review showed that the ball had hit the turf before McNeal secured the football, which allowed Grambling State to pick up the 45-38 victory.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 30-yard field goal by Jamie Gillan to cap an 8-play, 46-yard drive, giving the Golden Lions a 3-0 lead with 2:25 remaining.
A 5-yard touchdown pass from Hickbottom to Dorrell James gave the Tigers a 7-3 advantage with 9:50 left in the first half. However, the Golden Lions took a 9-7 lead into the half after Dejuan Miller caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Perry with just 18 seconds left in the second.
All it took was just two plays at the beginning of the third quarter to set the tone for a wild finish as LaDarrian Ellis-Jones busted straight up the middle for 74 yards to give Grambling State a 14-9 lead with 14:13 left in the period. But just as fast as GSU scored, Arkansas-Pine Bluff answered as Taeyler Porter rushed 75 yards to the endzone to give the Golden Lions a 16-14 lead with 13:57 remaining.
Grambling State capped a 9-play, 71-yard drive on its next offensive possession as Lyndemian Brooks rushed 44 yards to the endzone to put GSU back on top at 21-16 with 9:46 left. However, Porter scored on a 21-yard run to put Arkansas-Pine Bluff back in front, 23-21, with 2:46 remaining in the period.
After a turnover, Hickbottom went up top to Guice for a 35-yard touchdown to give GSU a 28-23 advantage with 28 seconds left in the third.
Back came Arkansas-Pine Bluff as Porter rushed three yards for the score as the Golden Lions converted the 2-point conversion to grab a 31-28 lead.
Grambling State answered, but this time it came from the defense as Linwood Banks got the strip sack and went 20 yards to the endzone to put the Tigers back on top, 35-31. However, the Golden Lions put together a 10-play, 80-yard drive with Miller catching a 5-yard pass from Perry, with 4:05 left, which set the stage for the come-from-behind victory.
In a game that had plenty of turning points, it all came down to the final four minutes of regulation with the Tigers trailing by three points, 38-35.
The Tigers began the drive at their own 25 with exactly 4:05 left on the clock. Hickbottom completed a 9-yard pass to Lyndemian Brooks on first down but was sacked for a three-yard loss on the very next play, which set up 3rd and 4 from its own 31.
Hickbottom needed four and got 13 on a carry, then scrambled again for five more yards. Just 51 yards away from paydirt, Hickbottom found Brooks again, this time for 13 yards to set up first down from the UAPB 38.
After a timeout by the Golden Lions, Hickbottom completed a 19-yard pass to Quintin Guice to give the Tigers a first down at the UAPB 19.
With the clock dwindling down, Brooks rushed for 11 yards to give Grambling State a first down at the UAPB 9. The Tigers got as close as the Golden Lions' 3, and Orozco booted the game-tying 20-yard field goal with 46 seconds remaining in regulation.