Everything was going Southern’s way in Saturday’s Bayou Classic — until it wasn’t.
A little more than midway through the second quarter, with a 20-10 lead, Southern quarterback Austin Howard dropped back and fired a 40-yard pass into the end zone — to a double-covered receiver.
In the amount of time it took Grambling defensive back Nicholas Peoples to put his hands in the air, everything changed for the Jaguars.
Peoples made a play on the underthrown ball, coming up with the game’s first turnover. He proceeded to run 46 yards to near midfield before Southern running back Lenard Tillery could make the tackle.
The Jaguars wouldn’t know it at the time, but Peoples’ interception would spell the beginning of the end for their upset bid.
“That was a little aggressive, but it was the right throw at the right time,” Howard said. “It just happened, and I have to live with that.”
Southern had a chance to right the ship on the next drive, but a fumble by Southern receiver Nico Talbert at the Grambling 5-yard line killed what little momentum remained from the Jaguars’ quick start.
Prior to the interception, Southern produced 20 points on 230 yards, while the defense held the SWAC’s second-best offense to 124 yards, 46 of which came on a single play on the previous drive.
Grambling gained 455 yards of offense Saturday, including 401 yards in the final three quarters. Southern finished with 424 but only scored three more points following the interception.
At one point, Grambling scored 28 unanswered points but could have scored more if it weren’t for a drive-killing delay-of-game call at the end of the first half that would have given them the lead before the break.
“I got a big penalty in the red zone, then we gave up a 60-yard run play, things like that builds up momentum for the other team,” senior linebacker Daniel Brown said. “If you let a team like that get hot, you see what they can do.”
Southern coach Dawson Odums said Saturday’s game was indicative of the entire season.
Southern started strong and executed well, and then turnovers and penalties were its downfall. Odums has cited the youth of the Jaguars — a sophomore- and freshman-laden program — as primary reasons for those problems.
“You just can’t play like that,” he said. “You can’t turn the ball over. All year it’s been like that. In big games, we’ve turned the ball over, and teams have been able to stop us when we need to get points.
“I think this was a team we could have beat. We had the right game plan, and it just came down to execution.”