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Southern University tight end Dillon Beard (42) celebrates his touchdown with Southern University running back Herb Edwards (21) during the second half of the 44th annual Bayou Classic on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Grambling won 30-21.

Going into Saturday’s Bayou Classic game against Grambling, Southern felt somewhat disrespected.

Whether the slight was manufactured or real, Southern’s players took the field believing that nobody believed in them.

Although they did not come away with a win, the Jaguars felt they proved something to those that may have doubted them in a hard-fought 30-21 loss.

“To come into a game like this, where nobody picked us to win, and to fight like that, that’s why the emotion was so high,” said senior cornerback Danny Johnson. “After we leave here, I don’t feel like we have anything to (hang) our heads about.

“Nobody can question our character; nobody can question our effort. We played hard.”

Southern coach Dawson Odums said his team was “embarrassed” by its 52-30 loss in the 2016 Bayou Classic and came out aiming to prove it was on more equal footing with a Grambling team that has won 25 straight conference games since Southern beat it in the 2014 Bayou Classic.

“They left it all out there, and that is all you can ask of them,” Odums said of his team.

The game was something of a metaphor for Southern’s 2017 season, with Southern surging after a rough start but ultimately falling short of its overall goal.

“That’s all we preach: We’ve got to keep fighting, and we’re going to be where we want to be,” said running back Herb Edwards. “We had a chance; we just didn’t bring it home.”

The final tally

Austin Howard’s Southern career officially came to a close Saturday. Here are the final numbers for the school’s all-time leading passer in terms of yards and passing touchdowns:

Howard is the only quarterback in Southern history to top 9,000 passing yards. His 198-yard day against Grambling gave him 9,208 for his career.

His two passing touchdowns against Grambling put him at an even 80 for his career.

Howard started 40 games, and Southern went 28-12.

Southern has four quarterbacks on its roster expected to return next season in John Lampley, Darquez Lee, Bubba McDaniel and Kobie Lain.

“We’ve got to find a quarterback that is going to take the bull by its horns and lead this football team,” Odums said.

Prolific pass rush

Grambling sacked Howard five times Saturday, giving the Tigers a nation-leading 45 sacks on the season.

This is nothing new for Grambling under coach Broderick Fobbs.

The Tigers led all Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams with 41 sacks a year ago, and also led the FCS in 2014, Fobbs’ first year, with 45.

The lone year Grambling did not lead the nation in sacks was in 2015, when its 38 sacks ranked No. 6 nationally.

The Bayou Classic marked the sixth time in Grambling’s past eight games it had at least five sacks.

Grambling also forced three turnovers Saturday, tying it with Dartmouth for the FCS lead in takeaways (32).

Lagniappe

Edwards ran for 68 yards against Grambling, leaving him 23 yards shy of cracking 1,000 for the season … Aaron Tiller ended the season with 9.5 sacks, giving him 33 for his career … Southern finished with the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s No. 4 scoring offense (27.4 points per game).

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.