NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Southern coach Dawson Odums was gratified by the growth in composure his team displayed one year after a painful collapse in the Bayou Classic.
After Grambling trimmed an 18-point deficit to three in the fourth quarter, Southern responded with a touchdown drive that sealed a 38-28 victory in the 45th Bayou Classic to advance to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.
“We took the lead with 5:02 left last year and couldn’t make one more play to win the game,” Odums said. “When they cut the lead to 31-28 today, you could tell the mindset was totally different. Our offense answered. Our offensive line was dominant.”
The Jaguars (7-3, 6-1) will play at East Division champion Alcorn State in the SWAC championship game next Saturday.
Ladarius Skleton threw three touchdown passes and passed for 217 yards even though he completed just 8 of 14. Devon Benn rushing 19 times for 167 rushing yards, including the game’s final touchdown from 2-yards out.
Southern out-rushed Grambling (6-5, 4-3) 247-94.
“They made us one dimensional,” Tigers coach Broderick Fobbs said.
Southern was threatening to increase its 17-10 halftime lead on the first possession of the third quarter, but Grambling’s La’Allan Clark picked up a fumble after a botched handoff and ran 80 yards to the Jaguars 8 to set up Garrett Urban’s 21-yard field goal.
On the next possession, the Jaguars faced a third-and-23 when Skelton connected with Kendall Catalon for an 80-yard touchdown and a 24-13 lead.
Skelton’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Randall Menard increased Southern’s lead to 31-13 after three quarters.