Southern program back on track with big win over Grambling
On the biggest stage against your biggest rival, it takes a complete 60-minute effort to emerge victorious.
After letting an opportunity slip away a year ago against Grambling, Southern head coach Dawson Odums hammered home the message of playing 60 minutes to his team all week long ahead of the annual battle with Grambling.
Tough people endure tough times. Southern has come through the darkness and is back in the light as the rebuild is complete.
Dawson Odums has done an excellent job of restoring the roar to a program that, like Grambling just a few years back, was in a bit of disarray after NCAA sanctions humbled and hurt the program significantly with scholarships being cut, along with time allowed to practice.
The Jaguars are going back to the SWAC title game for the first time since 2014 after an exciting 38-28 win over the Tigers in the 45th annual Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday to win the Western Division of the conference. It was a game where Grambling was always in it and close, getting within three points, but a game that Southern never trailed in.
The Southern offense was good and it was balanced, accumulating 480 yards, including 247 rushing and 233 passing. Sophomore Ladarius Skelton was good, throwing three touchdown passes and he rushed for 79 yards. Former John Curtis Christian star Devon Benn came up big in the running game, rushing for 167 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Special teams were big as well as Southern scored on a blocked punt by Kordell Caldwell which was recovered by Benjamin Harris for a score to give the Jaguars the early lead. Cesar Barajas kicked a 47-yard field goal for the Jaguars.
The Southern defense did its part, holding Grambling to just 94 yards rushing on 36 attempts, an average of just 2.6 yards per carry. Both teams had to overcome penalties as the Jaguars were penalized 12 times for 110 yards while the Tigers incurred 11 penalties for 98 yards.
Geremy Hickbottom completed 18-of-30 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown with an interception and ran for a score for the Tigers (6-5, 4-3).
Most impressive was the crowd, announced at 67,871, a tremendous turnout and a huge win for both schools, for New Orleans and for Louisiana.
The Jaguars (7-3, 6-1) will take on Alcorn State next Saturday at Lorman, MS in the SWAC title game, looking to win the conference championship for the first time since 2013.
The Braves (8-4) defeated the Jaguars 20-3 in Baton Rouge on Sept. 29. Two of Alcorn’s losses were to FBS schools in Arkansas and Georgia Tech. Alcorn is in the SWAC title game for the fifth straight year.
Before the game, each school presented game balls to legendary figures from the respective institutions. Former Jaguars coach Pete Richardson was the Southern recipient while former Tigers quarterback and NFL Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams was the Grambling recipient.
The series now stands 23-22 in favor of Grambling, indicative of the even and heated nature of a great rivalry, which is alive and well, as is the Classic, itself. The lean years after Hurricane Katrina are a distant memory. The game is as good as it has ever been, as is the Bayou Classic. Eddie Robinson would be proud. His spirit remains over game, as does his memorable smile.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE 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 Sports Media Association, National Football…