By T. Scott Boatright
It comes down to this to close out chapter one of the Hue Jackson era for Grambling State University football.
And when it comes down to the 49th annual Bayou Classic, history has shown anything can happen.
Nothing could close out the season more sweetly for the G-Men than to play spoiler in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) showdown set to kick off at 1 p.m. today at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
Grambling State (3-7 overall, 2-5 SWAC) enters coming off a 41-7 to Texas Southern on Nov. 12.
But GSU has won two out of its last three games heading into its final regular season game of the season.
Southern (6-4, 4-3 SWAC), which defeated Mississippi Valley State 27-7 at home on Nov. 12, controls its own destiny after snapping a two-game losing streak with that win over the Delta Devils despite earlier losses to Jackson State and Florida A&M.
A Bayou Classic win for the Jaguars will secure a spot in the SWAC Championship game. But a Southern loss will mean that Prairie View A&M ends up meeting Jackson State on Dec. 3.
“Obviously we are excited about getting back to playing football. It’s obviously one of the biggest classics that there is, with a game played in New Orleans at the Bayou Classic,” said first-year GSU head coach Hue Jackson, who will be coaching in his first Bayou Classic.
“The players are excited, the coaches are excited. We got back to work (Tuesday) after having some down time. We’ve seen some areas we need to focus on, to get better at. That’s our number one goal. Our number two goal is to continue to work extremely hard and to get ready for this game.”
Last year, playing in the wake of the dismissal of former head coach Broderick Fobbs before the Bayou Classic, GSU’s walk-off field goal gave the Tigers a 29-26 win over the Jaguars to win their first and only game under interim head coach Terrence Graves, who now serves as assistant head coach at Southern.
Jackson said he’d love to see this year’s Tigers cap off his first season as head coach at GSU with a similar win.
“Our players understand it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to get a jump-start into next season,” Jackson said during a press conference in New Orleans earlier this week. “For the seniors graduating, we want them to go out the right way.”
GSU is averaging 24 points per contest while Southern is averaging 32 points per game.
Defensively, the G-Men are giving up an average of 398 yards and 31 points per game compared to 282 yards and 20 points per game the Jaguars are holding their opponents to.
Southern leads the all-time series between the schools, 39-34, but the Bayou Classic series is tied at 24-24.
Grambling State is 1-1 this season in neutral site games, winning the Shreveport Classic over Northwestern State before falling in the State Fair Classic to Prairie View A&M.
Saturday’s game will air live on NBC and Peacock with Chris Lewis and Anthony Herron in the booth being joined by sideline reporters Lewis Johnson and Corey Robinson.
Grambling State will broadcast and stream the game on the Grambling State Sports Radio Network. The game can be heard in Ruston and Dubach on the flagship station, The Peach (KPCH-99.3 FM), KNNW 103.1 FM in Columbia and Monroe and KEDG 106.9 FM in Alexandria and Pineville with the Tigers’ broadcast crew of Ossie Clark and Chyelle Flowers calling the action.