Southern University interim head coach Jason Rollins shakes hands with Grambling State University interim head coach Terrence Graves after the annual Bayou Classic press conference at Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. The Battle of the Bands and Greek Show event is on Friday at 7pm and kickoff is Saturday at 4pm. (Photo by Sophia Germer,, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Hard times have hit Grambling football four seasons since its last conference championship and five since winning the Black college national championship.

On top of the 0-4 pandemic-ravaged spring season, Grambling has stumbled to 3-7 and 2-5 and in the Southwestern Athletic Conference with an offense that hasn’t cracked the 300-yard mark in seven league games.

The last two seasons cost coach Broderick Fobbs his job, but the program is trying to grab a slice of solace in the 48th annual Bayou Classic against Southern on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Caesars Superdome.

The school promoted linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Terrence Graves to interim coach. His joy and gratitude for the opportunity are off the charts.

“It’s been a roller coaster,” said Graves, a 28-year assistant who served as interim coach once before at Mississippi Valley State. “It’s unfortunate coach Fobbs won’t be coaching. The guys and coaches were a little down. But Tuesday we got back to work. Those guys are fired up and focused, ready to go. The seniors expressed how they felt. ‘Hey coach we’re with you, we got you, we’re going to ride with you.’”

What the Tigers are riding is a three-game losing streak in which the offense has failed to reach 200 yards of offense. Injuries and quarterback troubles have been the downfall of a team that was playing strong defense at one point.

In conference games only, Grambling is last in total offense at 240.6 yards — more than 200 yards fewer than SWAC leader Alabama A&M — and second to last in scoring (20.6). The Tigers’ 15 TDs are tied for the second-lowest total.

Sophomore quarterback John-Paul Pierce, a former Brother Martin star who is returning to his hometown, will make his third consecutive start. He’s completed 26 of 60 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions in losses to Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Bethune-Cookman.

The Tigers have been through four quarterbacks after Elijah Walker opened the season with the job. Grambling was shut out twice after beating Tennessee State in the season opener, and eventually went to prized freshman Noah Bodden. He played four games and leads the team with 476 yards passing and four TDs but was benched to preserve his redshirt.

The Tigers lost two of their best players for the season when leading returning rusher Keilon Elder went down in the opener and tight end Jaye Patrick was injured the next week against Southern Mississippi. CJ Russell is the team’s top rusher with 328 yards and one touchdown. The Tigers have only six rushing TDs this season.

Greg White is the team’s leading receiver with 31 catches for 435 yards and two TDs, and Kobe Ross has 23 catches for 233 yards and one TD.

Grambling’s defense has kept it in most games, ranking fourth in scoring defense (26.6) and seventh in yards allowed (376.6).

The impact player on defense is linebacker Bryan Powell, who has 12 tackles for loss among his 35 total and six quarterback hurries. Defensive lineman Sundiata Anderson leads the team with five of the team’s 32 sacks, and defensive back Rey Estes has 10 pass breakups.

“We’re going to make sure we do the things they can do and do well,” Graves said. “We’re going to have some fun. Our coaches will do a great job of implementing the game plan, the things we talked about, things I want to see and the players want to do. We gave the players some input to get a shot of energy and a boost.”