Lincoln set to face Grambling State at Arrowhead Stadium

Follow real-time updates during the game on Twitter at @GoBlueTigers, and view game stats online.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for just about everybody associated with the Lincoln football program.

A chance to play in an NFL stadium. A chance to take on a NCAA Division I team.

That’s the situation Lincoln has been gifted, as the Blue Tigers take on Grambling State in the Missouri Classic at 4:30 p.m. today at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, the home of the Chiefs.

“Some of these guys will never get an opportunity to play in an NFL stadium,” Lincoln head coach Mike Jones said. “This is a great opportunity for them. Most of our kids are from Missouri, and they’re either Chiefs fans or Rams fans. They get an opportunity to see their hometown team.”

Added Lincoln wide receiver Khiry Draine: “We get the chance to play a Division I school in a NFL stadium. There’s a lot of people that wish they had this opportunity to play in this kind of atmosphere, so I would say it is a big lifetime opportunity.”

Just about the only one with much experience at Arrowhead is Jones himself.

“Not very successful, but played there a few times,” said Jones, who was a part of teams that went 1-8 at Arrowhead.

Arrowhead isn’t the only allure for Lincoln, as the Blue Tigers get to take on Football Championship Subdivision opponent Grambling State, which like Lincoln falls under the historically black colleges and universities umbrella.

“We haven’t played them (in recent memory) so it’s something new, something we haven’t had the opportunity to participate in — playing another HBCU — so there’s some excitement to it,” Jones said. “Hopefully we’re controlled and have some composure about ourselves and have a good game.”

The two teams met in 1965 with Grambling winning 54-18.

While the circumstances surrounding the game are nothing but favorable, can the same be expected once it gets down to playing football?

“We’re going in there with the idea of winning the football game,” Jones said. “We think we have a good chance if we do what we’re supposed to.

“Grambling’s a very good team. Their record doesn’t reflect it, but you watch them against Alabama State and they did some good things. Louisiana-Monroe is a good football program, so they struggled a little bit against them. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Grambling (0-2) is in the midst of some turmoil, as the Tigers just fired head coach Doug Williams on Wednesday. Williams, the former Washington quarterback who led the Redskins to a Super Bowl win in 1988, returned for his second stint as the Grambling head man in 2011. He won the Southwestern Athletic Conference title that season before going 1-10 in 2012.

“When you lose your head football coach, sometimes guys rally around that,” Jones said. “We have to be ready for some guys being emotional playing for coach Williams.

“We have to take care of what we do, as far as Lincoln, and handle our business. All the things we had problems with wasn’t our opponent, it was ourselves. We have to correct the mistakes we made and make sure we take care of who we’re playing against.”

Lincoln (0-1) suffered a season-opening loss to Lindenwood, rallying from a 24-3 deficit before falling 24-22.

“It’s a sign of progress,” Jones said. “That’s part of having leaders in place to do what they’re supposed to. I think that’s the biggest thing, leadership. We have pretty good leaders on the team, they’re working hard, they want to win. That’s just part of our maturation as a football team.”

How that translates against a Division I team is another story.

“You’re going to see more full-scholarship players (64 in Division I, 36 in Division II), and when you have those, you usually have better players,” Jones said. “We’ve seen them on film, but playing them and seeing them live in person is something totally different.”

Oddly enough, one player to watch for Grambling is Williams’ son, D.J., who starts at quarterback for the Tigers. Through two games, Williams is 17-of-44 for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“They have a good quarterback,” Jones said. “Tall kid, about 6-foot-5, big arm. They have some really good running backs, three good running backs. They pound the ball. They have nice receivers. Good size on the offensive line and defensive line, so we have a challenge in front of us.”

The opportunity is there. Now it’s time to produce on the big stage.

“We have to make sure we play well,” Jones said. “The guys are excited about playing at Arrowhead.”

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