As mismatched as Grambling was against Southern in Saturday’s Bayou Classic, the Tigers knew they needed to start strong if they had a chance to play with the Jaguars.
It didn’t happen, as Southern controlled both sides of the ball in a 49-7 win at Independence Stadium in Shreveport.
Grambling went three-and-out on its first two possessions and trailed 14-0 before it picked up its initial first down with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter. While Southern’s offense was moving the ball almost at will, the Jaguars defense was dominating its side of the ball as well.
So dominant was Southern’s defense, the Jaguars had their eye on obtaining the first shutout in the series since 1974, a game Grambling won 21-0 in the first Bayou Classic.
As it was, Southern led 28-0 at halftime, the first time either team had gone scoreless in the first half since Grambling’s 7-0 lead in 2006.
All told, Southern held Grambling to 208 yards of total offense. Tigers quarterback Elijah Walker completed 9 of 14 passes, but they were only good for 65 yards. Southern also collected five sacks, including four of Walker.
“I thought we had a chance (to dominate on defense) just looking at film and the game plan if we focused on us,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said. “I think a lot of teams focus on the opponent, and they worry about beating the opponent. Our biggest thing is don’t beat ourselves.”
Southern made sure it didn’t beat itself, getting an early lift from Jordan Lewis, whose third-down sack on Grambling’s opening possession forced a punt. The Tigers strung together two first downs late in the first quarter, but Tyran Nash sacked Walker to end the threat.
A key moment came midway through the second quarter after Southern’s only turnover — but the Jaguars defense stepped up. After Southern blocked a Grambling punt — the fifth consecutive forced by the Jaguars to open the game — Southern took over at the Tigers' 10-yard line.
But on second down, Grambling’s Lewis Matthews sacked John Lampley, forcing a fumble that Matthews pounced on. With a chance to cut into Southern’s 21-0 lead and seize momentum, Grambling went nowhere and had to punt yet again.
Southern took over and promptly drove 78 yards for its final touchdown before halftime.
“Did we think we could come out here and dominate from the first snap? Yes, we really thought that,” Odums said. “That’s the only way you can be dominating. You have to play it one snap at a time.”
It was a sentiment shared by Southern linebacker Caleb Carter, who led the Jaguars with six tackles.
“We came out here expecting to dominate,” Carter said. “That’s what we expect to do, so it's not really a surprise that it happened.”
The defensive domination helped bring an end to a disappointing season for Grambling, and Tigers coach Broderick Fobbs made no excuses for the results of the game.
“I think they were more talented today,” he said. “They were more physical today, and they were the better football team today.”