Bayou Classic hits 50 with new storylines, same passion for Southern and Grambling

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Bayou Classic 2022

November 23, 1974, a historic day in college football history.

The Bayou Classic was born as Grambling freshman quarterback Doug Williams grabbed Most Valuable Player honors in a 21-0 Grambling victory over arch-rival Southern before 76,755 fans at Tulane Stadium.

This year’s battle between Louisiana’s two football-playing historically black universities is also historic.  Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of the Bayou Classic when the Grambling and the Southern Jaguars clash at the Caesars Superdome before a huge crowd and a national television audience.

Kickoff is 1 p.m.

Both programs have identical 5-5 records and the outcome of Bayou Classic 50 won’t decide a divisional or conference title.  Terrence Graves, named Southern’s interim head coach after Eric Dooley was fired on November 8, says it’s still a meaningful contest.

“It’s important because it’s the Bayou Classic.  State championship, bragging rights.  We will work hard to bring this championship back to Southern University.  So there’s always something on the line.”

Notice, Coach Graves called it a “championship.”

Last season, Grambling head coach Hue Jackson experienced his first Bayou Classic, a 34-17 defeat at the hands of the Jaguars. Going into that game, he thought he understood. However, he admits it was a pleasant awakening.

“I don’t think there is another one like this.  It has that bowl or Super Bowl-feel to it because it’s an all-week event and it’s as big as it gets.  It’s always two schools with great players and coaches well-respected and it’s always a tremendous game.”

The firing of Southern head coach Eric Dooley is obviously on the minds of Jaguar players and fans.  Graves, who has experience as an interim head coach having served as Grambling’s interim coach when the Tigers fired Broderick Fobbs two years ago, had a simple message for his players.

“We gave them 48 hours to get it out of their system and then it was time to get back on the horse and ride and go to work.  They’ve done that and they are practicing with great energy and focus and just having a good time.”

Graves had a successful interim outing on the other side of the field in 2021.  Placekicker Garrett Urban connected on a 25-yard field goal with seconds remaining for a 29-26 Tiger win.

The Jaguars have won four of the last five Bayou Classic meetings including last year’s edition. The all-time series mark stands at 25-24 in favor of Southern.

Jackson, a former head coach in the NFL with the Browns and the Raiders, hopes to even the series.

But he’s adamant, there’s nothing like the Bayou Classic.  He thought he knew, but last year’s maiden voyage into the Superdome the Saturday after Thanksgiving told him otherwise.

“It was very different for me because my time in college football was about just playing.  So, you have a different appreciation for why these things happen.  I understand it better.”

He added, “Last year I didn’t know I had to come to New Orleans for a press conference just days before the game when I needed to be planning for the game with my staff.  I’ve got it squared away this year and I feel much better about where we are, and I like our football team.”

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