This is it.
For three seasons, Southern wide receiver LaQuinton Evans stood on the field level at the Superdome, watching the final seconds of the Bayou Classic fade away. Three seasons, three losses.
Now, he’s a senior. Now, this week, Evans has one more shot at the one win he wants more than all the others.
At 1 p.m. Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Evans and Southern (4-6, 4-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference) face archrival Grambling (6-4, 5-3).
The Jaguars once dominated this series, winning 10 of 11 meetings from 1993-2003. Now, they’ve lost three straight to Grambling.
“My last one. A lot of people watching. ... It’s not a lot of seniors on this team,” said Evans, who leads Southern with 42 catches, 670 yards and six touchdowns.
“It’s a lot of sophomores and juniors and freshmen out there on the field. So we’re trying to make a statement, and we’re trying to keep this program going in the right direction.”
Evans has one other very important incentive to win Saturday. He’s got a personal score to settle. His best friend is Dezmond Spivey, a senior receiver at Grambling. The two players grew up in together in Mansfield, about 35 miles south of Shreveport.
“We played on the same middle-school teams and everything,” Spivey said.
Spivey ultimately moved from Mansfield so he could go to high school where his dad, former Grambling safety Garland Spivey, was an assistant coach.
“I ended up going to Shreveport, to Green Oaks,” Spivey said. “(Evans) wound up staying in Mansfield.”
Evans said he was recruited by other schools, but mostly as a cornerback. Eric Dooley, then the SU receivers coach, recruited Evans as a wideout.
As for Spivey, he always wanted to play at Grambling. Early in his career, he actually played more than Evans - but not at his natural position.
Spivey was the team’s punter in 2008. After that, he began playing more often as a receiver.
A knee injury severely limited Spivey this season; he didn’t play in four games and failed to make a catch in three more.
Spivey has 66 yards on four catches, but two of them came last week against Texas Southern.
Grambling can win it
The Western Division is now Grambling’s to lose.
To have a shot at the West title and a berth in the SWAC Championship Game, the idle Tigers needed Prairie View to lose Saturday against Alabama A&M.
They got what they needed: Prairie View lost 17-15.
And in the words of Grambling coach Doug Williams, it’s certainly better to play for a championship than to play for pride.
“A rivalry like Southern and Grambling is one of the better-known rivalries in all of college football,” Williams said Monday. “At the same time, this rivalry means a lot to both schools, and the opportunity for one team to go to the championship game - that puts a little bit more on the line than state pride, basically.”
Williams said he didn’t plan to take a different approach with his team - be it last week, when the Tigers had to do a little scoreboard-watching to do, or this week, now that they’re a win away from an improbable West title.
Grambling started 1-4 overall, but takes a five-game winning streak into New Orleans.
“Since we started 1-4, all we told the guys was, take it one at a time,” Williams said. “They did that, and that’s all we could really ask of them. It’s the same thing with this game. It’s one at a time. You can’t play two games at one time.”
UAPB pulling for ... SU?
It was an embarrassing scene when Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff got into a brawl Oct. 15 after the Golden Lions’ 22-21 win.
The fight resulted in 40 player suspensions (25 from UAPB, 15 from SU), and footage of it ended up on ESPN’s “College GameDay” the following weekend, as part of a larger story on a rash of football fights that had erupted nationwide at the time.
Now, however, UAPB is the Southern’s biggest fan.
If the Jaguars win the Bayou Classic, they’ll force a four-way tie for first place in the West between Grambling, Southern, Prairie View and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
In that scenario, UAPB holds the tiebreaker. The Lions have a 2-1 record against the other three teams, along with a head-to-head victory over Prairie View, the only other team with a 2-1 record against the other three teams.
If Southern wins Saturday, SU and Grambling would both have 1-2 records against the other first-place teams.
During his first stint as Grambling’s coach, from 1998-2003, Williams went 1-5 against Southern and Pete Richardson. The Tigers’ only win during that time was in 2001, when they won 30-20 before a Superdome crowd of 67,435. ... A few numbers worth noting, especially if Saturday’s game is nip-and-tuck: Grambling kicker Zoltan Riazzo has made 27 of 28 extra-point attempts. Southern kickers Manuel Canto and Matt Hill have combined to make 22 of 28.