SWAC Football: Southern’s defense seals win for Jaguars in 49th Bayou Classic

Image via Michael Ofendahl

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Southern’s opportunistic defense was the deciding factor, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter as the Jaguars defeated the Tigers of Grambling 34-17 in the 49th Bayou Classic.

Courtesy of Brian Howard, Grambling State Athletics

The Grambling State University football team dominated the first half, but turnovers led to 20 Southern points as the Jaguars pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 34-17 in the 49th Annual Bayou Classic on Saturday afternoon at the Caesars Superdome.

In a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) rivalry game, Southern came in needing a victory to advance to the conference title game next weekend at Jackson State. The lone roadblock standing in the Jaguars way – Grambling State. 

The Tigers gave Southern all it could handle for three-plus quarters, but the Jaguars returned a GSU fumble 46 yards midway through the final period to seal the victory.

Grambling State’s first two drives started in excellent field position, but came away with no points as Garrett Urban’s 48-yard attempt went wide left, keeping the game tied at 0 with 6:20 remaining in the opening quarter.

Southern (7-4 overall, 5-3 SWAC) mustered just one first down in the opening quarter (5:22) as the Tigers defense held the Jaguars, a team that averaged 413.0 total yards, to just 12 yards in the first quarter.

Grambling State’s offense went to work late in the opening frame as Julian Calvez connected with Claude Coleman for 40 yards, and a personal foul face mask penalty advanced the ball to the SU 30. 

Three plays later, Chance Williamssprinted down the left side for an 18-yard gain. On the very next play, Calvez found Lyndon Rash on the 4-yard fade as the Tigers completed a 6-play, 80-yard drive with 43 seconds remaining.

The Tigers (3-8, 2-6) appeared to be adding onto the lead midway through the second quarter, but Calvez was sacked, while losing the football as Ckelby Givens recovered the ball at the SU 19.

The Jaguars cashed in the turnover by driving 71 yards in six plays, aided by a Besean McCray 32 yard run as Karl Ligon pushed in the tying touchdown with 7:08 left in the half.

Grambling State answered Southern’s scoring drive by going 49 yards in nine plays as Urban booted a 45-yard field goal from the right hash as the Tigers grabbed the 10-7 advantage with 3:17 remaining in the second.

Southern made use of the final three minutes, driving the ball 76 yards in seven plays as McCray connected with Cassius Allen for 32 yards, setting up first-and-goal from the GSU 5. Kendric Rhymes punched in the touchdown one play later on a 5-yard carry, sending the Jaguars into the half with a 14-10 lead.

Grambling State took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched 94 yards in nine plays with Williams and Floyd Chalk IV doing the damage with runs of 22 and 30 yards. The Tigers punched in the go-ahead score on a Calvez keeper, giving GSU the 17-14 advantage with 10:23 remaining in the third.

Southern forged ahead, 21-17, early in the fourth as the Jaguars completed a 12-play, 60-yard drive with McCray breaking free up the middle for a 22-yard touchdown with 13:30 left.

On the ensuing GSU drive, the Tigers were aided by a defensive pass interference penalty and Noah Beancaught a short swing pass, hurdled a defender and was knocked out of bounds at the GSU 47. 

However, on the next play, Calvez was sacked by Jason Dumas as the ball was knocked out. Jordan Carter scooped up the loose ball and went 46 yards to the house as Southern seized control with a 28-17 advantage with 7:42 remaining.

Southern capped the scoring with 2:58 left as Calvez was picked off by Kriston Davis at the GSU 28 and took it to the end zone for the pick six score as the Jaguars led 34-17.


  • Grambling State finished with 19 first downs and 353 total yards
  • The Tigers, who racked up 182 yards in the first half, had 201 yards on the ground
  • Julian Calvez went 13 of 27 passing for 152 yards, with one touchdown pass, one touchdown run, one interception and was sacked seven times
  • Floyd Chalk IV rushed the ball eight times for a career-high 120 yards, averaging 15.0 yards per carry
  • Lyndon Rash was targeted 12 times, catching five passes for 47 yards and the Tigers’ first touchdown
  • Jimmy Iles punted the ball four times for 166 yards, averaging 41.5 yards per punt and had a long of 55 yards
  • Joshua Reed paced the defense with eight total tackles, including seven solo stops 
  • Lewis Matthews, one of the best linebackers in the country, added six total tackles, with four solo stops, and a half of a sack
  • Southern, which had 162 yards at the half, finished with 234 total yards, including 159 on the ground
  • Besean McCray went 7 of 17 passing for 75 yards and was sacked once
  • McCray led the ground game with 93 yards on 17 carries, including one score
  • Cassius Allen caught one pass for 32 yards 
  • Robert Beauplan punted the ball eight times for 317 yards, averaging 39.6 yards per punt
  • Jalan Campbell led the defense with 11 total tackles (five solo), along with two sacks
  • Derrick Williams added nine tackles (six solo) and a pair of sacks


  • Grambling State and Southern met for the 74th time overall and 49th time in the annual Bayou Classic
  • The Jaguars now claim a 40-34 all-time series lead
  • Southern broke the 24-all tie with the win on Saturday
  • Floyd Chalk IV was named the Grambling State MVP 
  • Besean McCray was selected the Southern MVP
  • The Jaguar win was the fourth over GSU in five meetings
  • SU head coach Eric Dooley remained unbeaten in five games against Grambling State (four with Prairie View A&M and one with Southern)
  • Southern advances to next weekend’s SWAC Championship game and a rematch with Jackson State in Jackson, Miss.
  • Southern and Prairie View A&M both finished 5-3 in the SWAC West Division, but the Jaguars won the head-to-head matchup, which moved SU to the conference title game
  • The Jaguars came into the game among tops in the nation in sacks with 37 and added to the total with seven more on Saturday
  • Grambling State entered the day 3-0 when leading after three quarters as the Tigers surrendered 20 fourth-quarter points
  • The Tiger defense held Southern to just 75 yards passing, the second-lowest total this season for GSU (Prairie View A&M passed the ball for 56 yards in the State Fair Classic)
  • Grambling State did not allow a passing touchdown, the last time that happened was at the State Fair Classic against Prairie View A&M
  • GSU dropped the final two games of the season after winning back-to-back games to close out October and open November
  • Garrett Urban finishes out his Grambling State career having scored at least a point in 19 straight games, dating back to the 2021 season

Team Statistics

Game StatsGSUSOU
Total Yards353234
Pass Yards15275
Rushing Yards201159
Penalty Yards6-657-71
1st Downs1913
3rd Downs4-137-16
4th Downs1-20-0
GSU00:43 – GSU – Rash,Lyndon 4 yd pass from Calvez,Julian (Urban,Garrett kick) 6 plays, 80 yards, TOP 02:3970
SOU07:08 – SOU – Ligon,Karl 2 yd run (Griffin,Joshua kick), 6 plays, 71 yards, TOP 02:0677
GSU03:17 – GSU – Urban,Garrett 44 yd field goal 9 plays, 49 yards, TOP 03:51107
SOU00:25 – SOU – Rhymes,Kendric 5 yd run (Griffin,Joshua kick), 7 plays, 76 yards, TOP 02:431014
GSU10:23 – GSU – Calvez,Julian 1 yd run (Urban,Garrett kick), 9 plays, 94 yards, TOP 04:341714
SOU13:30 – SOU – McCray,Besean 22 yd run (Griffin,Joshua kick), 12 plays, 60 yards, TOP 05:121721
SOU07:42 – SOU – Carter,Jordan 48 yd fumble recovery (Griffin,Joshua kick)1728
SOU02:58 – SOU – Davis,Kriston 42 yd interception 1734

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