Southern edges Grambling in another memorable Bayou Classic

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Bayou Classic midfield

When analyzing a game or event, the checklist exists to determine whether it was worth attending, worth watching or worth supporting in the future.

Thank the good Lord that the Greater New Orleans community, its leaders and sponsors continue to support the Bayou Classic.

The 46th edition of the contest checked all of the boxes, unless perhaps you are a die-hard Grambling fan.

**The game was nationally televised, spotlighting the city and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome
**The spectacle was superb, including tremendous bands
**The crowd which turned out was excellent
**The game determined a division championship
**The game went down to the final play with the outcome in doubt

On a day where Tulane was playing its regular season finale at SMU, when Nicholls and Southeastern Louisiana were playing and winning games in the FCS playoffs and when LSU was extracting revenge with pounds of flesh against Texas A&M, the Bayou Classic stood out as a beacon of light for the state of Louisiana.

If you simply watched most of the first half and tuned out, you missed an amazing comeback and an amazing football game.

Grambling dominated early to look the part of a sure winner but Southern had other ideas.

It came down to a potential game-winning field goal in a game-ending situation. You cannot draw it up any better, unless, of course, you are a die-hard Grambling fan.

Joe Davis of the Jaguars deflected the field goal attempt of Miguel Mendez to secure a thrilling 30-28 victory over the Tigers. It was the second deflection of a field goal in the game by Davis, a New Orleans native who attended Clark High School.

Southern called a pair of timeouts prior to the fateful field goal attempt to ice Mendez. Instead, it was Davis who iced the Tigers.

This was the closest Bayou Classic since 1991, when Southern won 31-30.

The final numbers indicated just how close the game was.

Southern finished with 389 total yards to 364 for Grambling. Southern had the ball for 30:16 to 29:44 for the Tigers. The Jaguars were penalized just three times for 15 yards while Grambling incurred just four penalties for 21 yards. Southern had 21 first downs to 20 for Grambling.

The game started out like it would be a great day for Grambling and possibly an easy victory for the Tigers.

Geremy Hickbottom hit De’Vante Davis on a 13-yard touchdown pass to give Grambling an early 7-0 lead.

Southern cut into the lead when Cesar Barajas kicked a 19-yard field goal to make it 7-3 by the end of the first quarter.

The lead grew to 14-3 when C.J. Russell raced 27 yards for a score in the second quarter.

Grambling seemingly took total control when Keilon Elder rushed 1-yard to make it 21-3 to cap a lengthy drive. Elder finished with 19 carries for 112 yards and the touchdown.

Southern kept its poise and responded in huge fashion before halftime. Ladarius Skelton connected with Hunter Register on a 3-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-10.

The Jaguars then got a huge lift when freshman Jarod Sims scored on the final play of the first half on a 1-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-17 and it was game on! The change of momentum was accentuated by the fact that Grambling appeared to stop Southern at the 1-yard line to end the half but the Tigers were offside. Southern got an untimed down and Sims took advantage with the big touchdown.

Southern took its first lead of the evening when Skelton hit Register with a 5-yard touchdown pass to give the Jaguars a 24-21 lead with 4:40 to play in the third quarter. Register finished with seven catches for 75 yards and two scores.

Grambling responded with a 75-yard drive, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Hickbottom on the first play of the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 28-24 lead.

It took Southern just 45 seconds and three plays to respond.

Sims scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown in the first minute of the fourth quarter on a 36-yard run to account for the final margin. Barajas missed the extra point. Sims had seven carries for 89 yards.

With the win, Southern (8-4) won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western Division championship and advances to the SWAC title game at Alcorn State next Saturday.

Skelton passed for 181 yards and two touchdowns for Southern to earn Most Valuable Player honors. Hickbottom was 15-of-28 for 155 yards and a touchdown and ran for a second score.

The win snapped a six-game win streak for the Tigers (6-5) and ended their season in bitter fashion.

Southern now gets a return trip to Lorman, MS to take on Alcorn State (8-3) next Saturday at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.

The Braves defeated the Jaguars 27-13 on Oct. 26 at the same venue. Alcorn State broke open a close game with 24 unanswered points in that matchup. In the first meeting, Skelton and Glendon McDaniel split time at quarterback for the Jaguars.

It is a rematch of last year’s SWAC title game, won by Alcorn State 37-28. Southern led 28-27 going to the final quarter but the Braves scored the final 10 points of the game to capture the title.

Interestingly, Grambling defeated Alcorn State 19-16 in overtime at Grambling on Nov. 9.

Rivalries involved teams who truly respect and dislike each other at the same time, conflicting emotions. Rivalries entail two teams who compete well with each other, trading blows, trading wins. The Southern vs. Grambling rivalry, south Louisiana vs. north Louisiana, is alive and well.

With the win, Southern evened the all-time series with each team having won 23 games. That, folks, defines a rivalry.

It was the second straight win for Southern in the Bayou Classic after Grambling and Broderick Fobbs had won three straight from 2015-17.

Dawson Odums and Fobbs have done excellent jobs with their programs. Both are relevant. Both are winning programs. Odums is now 5-3 against Grambling while Fobbs is 3-3 against Southern.

Odums perhaps said it best afterwards.

“You hate for somebody to have to lose a game like this,” Odums said.

Of course, he was beyond happy to be on the winning side of this one.

The rivalry is alive and well, thriving with two good programs, coaches and fan bases.

Once again, the big winner was New Orleans and the metro area with a ton of business generated and positive exposure.

The Bayou Classic remains a classic.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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