Stump Mitchell hadn’t even showered after Saturday’s 26-23 upset of Alabama State when he stared looking ahead.
Not to next season. Not yet.
The Bayou Classic is lying in wait.
The Jaguars (4-6, 4-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference), who are idle this week, face Grambling (6-4, 5-3), which is also idle, on Nov. 26 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Should Prairie View lose Saturday at home against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Southern could actually finish in a three- or four-way tie for first place in the Western Division.
“It’s everything. It gives us an opportunity to be 5-6, to win three more games than we did last year,” Mitchell said. “And if you look at the games that we lost this year, they were heartbreakers.”
Grambling coach Doug Williams chuckled Monday as he made a few obvious observations about the game, as well as this season.
Of all the involved parties, Williams, of course, may have the deepest understanding of the Bayou Classic’s significance. He played in the first game in 1974 at Tulane Stadium, then as a star quarterback for Grambling, and is now serving his second stint as the Tigers coach.
“We really haven’t gotten into game-planning mode, but we do know that for Grambling and Southern, this is the biggest game of the year, from a rivalry standpoint - sort of like Alabama State and Alabama A&M,” he said.
“And I think Southern, this past week, one of the biggest upsets in the conference. It was kind of like what we did last week at Jackson (State).”
On Nov. 5, Grambling notched a surprising 26-23 win over JSU, then the No. 1-ranked team in the Sheridan poll of black colleges.
Joseph ready in time?
It’s still probably too early to know for sure, but Mitchell said he hopes Dray Joseph will recover in time to be available for the Bayou Classic.
In a surprise move, Joseph started last week’s game at Alabama State for the first time since Oct. 8 against Prairie View, but suffered a concussion in the second quarter Saturday and watched the rest of the game in street clothes.
Joseph will have two weeks to recover for the Bayou Classic because Southern is idle this week.
“Well, hopefully, two will be the magic number,” Mitchell said.
SU cornerback Virgil Williams missed the Alabama State game after he suffered a concussion the previous week at Texas Southern.
“He was still having headaches. So hopefully it will clear up even sooner for Dray,” Mitchell said. “He’s still having minor headaches as we speak, but hopefully, this week off and next week, he’ll be able to come back and play for us.”
WR Green sits out
Senior receiver Jared Green missed Saturday’s game in what Mitchell called a coach’s decision, clearing the way for Charles Hawkins’ big game in Montgomery (Hawkins had career highs with seven catches for 121 yards and a touchdown).
“I wanted to give Charles Hawkins an opportunity to come back and play, and it was just a coach’s decision,” Mitchell said. “And Charles had a fantastic game. I mean, he tried to run with the ball before he caught it.
“But other than that, I thought he played well.”
Mitchell said Green did not violate any team rules and was not suspended, repeating that it was simply a coach’s decision.
Green has 17 catches for 307 yards and two touchdowns.
Happier trip to Cramton
Before last season, Mitchell had never played or coached in a game against Alabama State. But he’d been to the Cramton Bowl before, some 31 years ago.
Then a senior tailback at The Citadel, Mitchell played for the South team in the Blue-Gray Football Classic, a now-defunct all-star game for college draft prospects.
“It was awesome,” Mitchell said. “But this (win) was sweeter. It was much sweeter, because I took some guys there against a team that was No. 1 in the East, and we were able to come out victorious.”