After Southern scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5 minutes, 2 seconds left in the Bayou Classic, things didn't look good for Grambling.
There was plenty of time left, but Southern's defense had forced a Grambling punt on four of the previous five Tigers' possessions up to that point.
However, Calief Samon, a junior, returned the Jaguars' ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the Southern 40, setting up Grambling's winning touchdown in what became a 30-21 victory with that 10-point spurt after falling behind 21-20.
“We were very dominant in the kicking game,” Tigers coach Broderick Fobbs said. “I thought it was the deciding factor in the game.
"We blocked a kick, they missed a kick because of our pressure, we ran a kickoff back across the 50. We were able to flip the field with a punt return. And, then we had (three) touchbacks (two on kickoffs)."
Grambling State's Marc Orozco kicked three field goals, which ended up being the margin of victory. Orozco kicked a 42-yard field goal that gave the Tigers a 10-point, 17-7 lead with 3:35 left in the second quarter.
After the Jaguars closed to 17-14, Orozco hit another one from 37 yards out at the start of the fourth quarter, and his 36-yard kick with 1:05 remaining in the game sealed the outcome. Orozco missed one field-goal attempt, a 52-yarder at 6:48 of the third quarter.
Conversely, Southern's Ceasar Barajas missed a 25-yard attempt at 13:24 of the second quarter, and another attempt was blocked by Ja'Terious Pouncy at 11:53 of the third quarter.
“We brought a lot of pressure on the field-goal attempts,” Pouncy said. “On the first one that they missed, I tried to go under the wing blocker, and he pushed me in the face. I knew how to go around him the next time, and I got a piece of the ball.”
A minute into the fourth quarter, the Tigers were clinging to a 17-14 lead when the Jaguars' Murphy Nash punted from Southern's 21 after a big sack by Grambling's Anfernee Mullins on third-and-10. Malik Route returned the punt 29 yards to Southern's 26. That set up Orozco's second field goal.
“We don't hide the fact that we recruit players who can make plays in space,” Fobbs said. “And we try to put them in position to make those plays. That was a big play for us in this game.”
Fobbs said there were other special teams plays that didn't show up in the statistics. One important one, he said, came after Samon's return, which set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Martez Carter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Orozco kicked the ball high to the 10-yard line, and the ball bounced. The Tigers rushed down the field and tackled Southern kick returner Jamar Washington after a 4-yard return to the 14. There was 3:20 left.
“That prevented them from getting good field position and forced them to have the drive a long way to get the winning touchdown, ” Fobbs said. “It was big.”
Almost as big as Samon's momentum-changing return, in which he came up the middle of the field and swung to his right. When there was nothing there, he cut back left, sped up the left sideline, then weaved his way for 10 additional yards.
It was quite an effort, which Grambling's special teams gave all game.