Grambling State pours on the offense in Bayou Classic victory
The Tigers score with ease on their way to a nine-game winning streak and SWAC championship berth
Both the Grambling State Tigers and Southern Jaguars came into the 43rd Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on eight-game winning streaks. The two teams had matching unscathed records in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), too.
Even the offensive units came in nearly identical on paper: The Tigers and Jaguars came in scoring approximately 46 points a game over that stretch and with the offenses – Grambling State (367 points) and Southern (366) – only being separated by one in points scored.
When the two teams took the field, that’s where it became quickly apparent that Grambling (9-1, 9-0) was the superior team as it rushed past Southern (8-3, 8-1) to an easy 52-30 victory. Tigers quarterback DeVante Kincade (24-for-33, 283 yards and one touchdown passing and 79 yards and a score rushing) took home the player of the game award.
It appeared that the Tigers were going to use a big-play passing offense to keep the game interesting, tallying 315 yards, 14 first downs and two touchdowns on the day, while the Jags would rely heavily on their ground game to do the damage (262 yards and a score).
But that trend didn’t hold for very long as Grambling would win the game with its ground game – pounding the Southern defense for 256 yards, 12 first downs and four scores. The Jags only had 190 yards of passing, but scored three of their four touchdowns through the air.
The Tigers fumbled three times, but that didn’t adversely affect the team much. The Jags were able to turn two of those turnovers into touchdowns, but by the time Southern scored those points, the game was already far out of hand.
Southern kicked off the Saturday afternoon rendezvous with a scoring drive that started with great field position, thanks to a penalty on Grambling on the opening kickoff.
After a Tigers defensive lineman corralled the Jaguars running back in the backfield on the second play of the game, Southern quarterback Austin Howard extended the drive with a 16-yard run on third down.
That set Southern up on the Grambling 24, and a handful of plays later, Howard hit Willie Quinn on a slant pattern, which Quinn reversed and turned into an 18-yard touchdown.
Grambling State matched the Jaguars’ opening-drive touchdown with one of their own that was aided by 59-yard long ball from Kincade to Jordan Jones. The Tigers ran the ball down to Southern’s 1, but were pushed back by a false start and delay of game to the 11. That merely padded the stats of Martez Carter, who walked in untouched on second and 11. That made it 7-6 Grambling.
Howard and running back Lenard Tillery helped march the Jags right back down the field and into Tigers’ territory on the team’s next drive. It appeared as though Howard was going to score on a quarterback option run, but as he tried to extend the ball over the goal line, the ball slipped out and tumbled out of the end zone for a touchback.
Southern turned the ball over on back-to-back drives as Howard was intercepted on a ball that went through his receiver’s hands, by Ja’Terious Pouncey. This time, the Tigers cashed in on the turnover.
Receiver Chad Williams took a toss handoff from Kincade, and then Williams hurled it up toward Verlan Hunter, who grabbed the ball from the defensive back and lunged backward for the touchdown. Jonathan Wallace made a 25-yard field goal, and that put Gambling ahead 17-6.
Tillery gave the Jags and their fans new life when he broke off an 85-yard touchdown run with 3:31 left in the half to make it 17-13.
The third quarter was all Grambling as the Tigers scored three touchdowns to go up 38-18, with 4:02 left in the frame. Kincade found the end zone on a 45-yard run, Carter from 66 yards out and Lyndemian Brooks blew past the defense for a 34-yard score. The Jags’ lone score in the quarter came after the Tigers punt unit gifted the team with a turnover.
Grambling’s Carter was hit hard on the punt return and as he fell to the ground, the ball glanced off his leg, and Southern’s return team pounced on it. On the very next play, Howard found a wide-open Tillery for a 10-yard touchdown, making it 38-20, Tigers.
Williams caught a seven-yard touchdown and Carter returned a kickoff 88 yards to give the Tigers their final points of the game.
Ruan Albuquerque nailed a 31-yard field goal, and Stacy Piro caught a pass from Howard in tight coverage for the Jags’ final score.
It was Grambling’s 18th straight regular-season SWAC win and put the Tigers into the conference title game Saturday in Houston against Alcorn State. The teams met for the 2015 title, with Alcorn State winning 49-21 and earning a spot in the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta.
The winner of the SWAC title on Saturday will face Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) champion N.C. Central University in the 2016 Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17.