Rival showdown in Big Easy


Looking to build off the current offensive surge, the G-Men have one last obstacle to overcome on the gridiron before their season concludes: the Bayou Classic.

Grambling State University Tigers (1-10, 1-7 SWAC) will attempt to win their second game of the season Nov. 30, as they will travel south to the New Orleans Mercedes-Benz Superdome to face their in-state rivals Southern Jaguars (7-4, 6-2 SWAC) in the 40th anniversary Bayou Classic. 

“I don’t want to say it’s going to be a bloodbath, but it’s going to be a physical ballgame from both teams,” said interim head coach Dennis Winston. “I think our guys are going to come out there, do exactly what we plan to do, execute, and we are going to come out winners.”

In the Bayou Classic series, which began in 1974, Grambling State has a slight 20-19 advantage over Southern, following its 38-33  loss last year. Out of the 60 total games played against each other, each team has 30 wins. But Winston said records are irrelevant.

“You can throw all of the records you want out of the window now,” said Winston who is 1-2 since taking over the team. “These guys are going to go out there and play hard on both sides of the ball.” 

Despite splitting their last two games, the Grambling State offense has improved. This season they’ve been averaging 19.9 points per game, but the team is averaging 44.5 points per game since Johnathan Williams occupied the starting quarterback position.

Williams has completed 32 of 48 passes for 540 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. On the ground, he has rushed for 139 yards and four touchdowns.

While Williams is currently leading the team under center, the receiving corps has been doing their job by catching the ball. 

In the G-Men’s win over Mississippi Valley, Williams targeted 10 different receivers, four of whom caught for more than 30 plus yards, including Anthony MaGhee who caught for 70 yards. 

In their loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Williams spotted over seven different receivers, four, which caught 45-plus yards.   

“Really the offense has come together, just buying in the system that the coaches are teaching us,” said Williams. “We are really depending on each other.  That’s why we’ve been executing lately.” 

Although the offense has been executing as of late, the defense has been allowing 41 points in their last two games.

Grambling defensive back Tyree Hollins said big plays are a necessity if the G-Men want to hand Southern -who will be competing against Jackson State University in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship – their fifth loss of the season. 

“Big plays are going to be the key in winning this game next week,” said Hollins, who has intercepted the ball in each of the Tigers’ last two games. “We have to make big plays. You know we have big time players and we use the saying all the time, ‘big time players make big time plays.'”

One major advantage Grambling State has over Southern is the red zone scoring. The Tigers score 85.2 percent of the time when in the red zone, which leads the SWAC, compared to the Jaguars’ 76.5. 

If the Tigers can constantly move the ball down field, they should be in good shape.

True, the G-Men have a dismal record and, true, the G-Men have faced tough adversity this year, but one thing is for certain, the G-Men are back playing competitive football and this Bayou Classic will be a classic to remember.