Grambling State Tigers wide receiver Martez Carter (4) leaps over Southern University Jaguars defensive back Blake Monroe (27) during the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, of the 43rd annual Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Grambling State Tigers won 52-30.

Advocate photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

If anyone is familiar with what Grambling running back Martez Carter can do when the lights shine brightest, it is the heavyweights of the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Southern received a glimpse of his wide-ranging skill set in last season’s Bayou Classic, when Carter burned the Jaguars for 279 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns on just 16 touches in the Tigers' 52-30 win.

The next week, in the SWAC championship game, Carter torched Alcorn State for 348 all-purpose yards on 24 touches. He wrapped up his season with 201 all-purpose yards in Grambling’s Celebration Bowl win against North Carolina Central — his fourth straight game with at least 200 all-purpose yards to close the season.

“He’s explosive, man,” Southern defensive coordinator Trei Oliver said. “He has great vision. You can see the cutbacks. He has speed to hold you off when he gets out in the open field. He’s just an explosive player.”

Added Southern coach Dawson Odums: “He’s an exciting football player. He has big-play capabilities, and he got loose on us a year ago.”

Heading into the 44th installment of the Bayou Classic, Carter is a focal point of the Jaguars' defensive game plan, but it is difficult to scheme against a player who can hurt a defense in so many ways.

In last year's Bayou Classic, Carter topped 100 yards rushing on just 10 carries — two of which went for scores. He also caught a 28-yard pass and returned a kickoff for an 88-yard score.

“The good thing is, you get a chance to learn from that,” Odums said. “We’ll see if we’ve grown up some as a football team. I think we’ll have more eyes on him. I think he is one of the better players on their offense.”

Carter turned in a similar type of performance in the SWAC championship game, gaining 136 yards rushing on just 14 carries while adding 66 yards on five catches and 142 yards on four kick returns with a long of 73.

Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said Carter has earned a nickname because of his dynamic performances in the Tigers’ biggest games.

“They call him 'Mr. Excitement' for a reason,” Fobbs said. “He always plays well in huge games.”

Carter has largely been contained of late. In his past three games, he was held to 152 yards rushing on 40 carries — a 3.8-yard average.

He enters the Bayou Classic averaging a healthy 5.4 yards per carry this season — an impressive figure, but more than 2 yards per carry shy of his averages as a sophomore (7.9) and junior (7.7).

Neither Fobbs nor Oliver is paying much attention to the statistics though.

“I don’t worry about those numbers,” Oliver said. “You can see he’s a great back aside from whatever numbers he has this year. He’s one of the top backs in the conference.”

Before breaking out in last season’s Bayou Classic, Carter had accumulated 583 yards rushing on 82 carries. He finished the year with 906 yards rushing.

“We like to keep our guys a little fresh, so to speak,” Fobbs said. “We share the wealth with a lot of guys on the team. It helps us in these times of the season — at the end of the season. We’re looking forward to him having a really good performance.”

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.