Grambling State celebrates after an interception during the Bayou Classic football game against Southern University at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017.

Advocate Staff photo by SOPHIA GERMER

It is true as it is cliché: To be the best, you have to beat the best.

Grambling — hands down, bar none — has staked its claim as the best program in the Southwestern Athletic Conference by executing that cliché precisely. The Tigers have staked their claim so far down into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf that it might be sprouting roots.

Southern tried mightily to rip that stake out and end Grambling’s stranglehold on SWAC supremacy. And, for a moment, there appeared to be some light — a Southern lead in the fourth quarter, a gap between the stake and the ground.

And then — WHAM! — the staggering reality set in. It took all of 85 seconds for that gap to close.

It was frighteningly fast, Grambling’s reminder to Southern that it truly is boss.

A big kick return led to a quick touchdown. Eighty-five seconds after Southern took its only lead, Grambling stole it right back.

The next 3:22 were just lagniappe.

Sure, Southern theoretically had an opportunity to stage a game-winning drive after Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs inexplicably opted to kick an extra point after Martez Carter’s go-ahead touchdown to put his team ahead by six points.

(Psst, Broderick, a 2-point conversion would’ve made more sense.)

That decision didn’t end up mattering, because Grambling was just playing bully ball at that point.

A sack — Grambling’s fifth of the game and 45th of the season, which is just absurd — a strip, and a field goal made it a two-possession game.

An interception — Grambling’s third takeaway of the day and 29th of the season — closed it all out.

Think about that, how quickly it all got sorted out.

Think about what the entire second half was up until the 5:02 mark of the fourth quarter, when Austin Howard’s third-and-goal pass found Dillon Beard in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

That entire 24:58 in the second half that led to that touchdown pass was like watching a slow-moving wave of Southern momentum slowly wash over Grambling until the Tigers finally realized they were being carried out to sea.

Now think about the final 5:02, after Grambling realized what was happening, when it slammed its stake right back where it was.

With big play after big play, Grambling reminded everybody what it was: a team that has won three straight games against its most heated and respected rival — three straight victories against a Southern team that has lost exactly three SWAC games in those three seasons to teams not named Grambling.

The Tigers reminded everybody why they are the team that has won 10 consecutive games and 25 consecutive SWAC games.

It reminded everybody, right there in plain sight, why it was the best the SWAC has to offer — again.

Southern should be proud not only of the 8-4 season it put together but also the sustained success it has managed in the past five years.

All of that considered, though the Jaguars came agonizingly close Saturday, they won’t find their way back to the SWAC zenith until they find a way to end Grambling’s reign.

And the stake holding that claim just sank a little deeper.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.