NEW ORLEANS, La. | Martez Carter’s 11-yard touchdown run with 3:22 remaining helped the Grambling State University football team overcome a late one-point fourth-quarter deficit as the Tigers won a thriller, 30-21, over Southern University on Saturday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the 44th Annual Bayou Classic.
“This was truly a great game,” Grambling State head coach Broderick Fobbs said. “Anytime you have two good teams battling, you know it will be a good game. Southern is a well-coached team. Today, we made some mistakes, and had some key penalties, but overall I am proud of our guys for continuing to battle.
The Grambling State victory secured its third consecutive spot into next Saturday’s Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Championship at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas against Alcorn State.
Southern (7-4 overall, 5-2 SWAC) took its first lead of the night, 21-20, with 5:02 remaining after Dillon Beard caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Austin Howard.
On the ensuing kickoff, Calif Samon returned the ball 41 yards to set up the Tigers at the Southern 40. However, after Devante Kincade rushed for no yards and threw an incomplete pass, Grambling State called a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Kincade connected with Quintin Guice for an 11-yard gain. Two plays later, the Jaguars were flagged for a personal foul to give the Tigers a first down at the Southern 11. On the very next play, Carter rushed straight up the middle for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:22 left.
The Tigers defense rose to the occasion on the next Southern possession as Howard was sacked by Brandon Varner as the ball came loose. Varner recovered the ball at the Jaguars 21. Four plays later, Marc Orozco booted a 36-yard field goal to seal the victory.
Grambling State (10-1, 7-0) took advantage of a Howard interception on the game’s first offensive play and marched 37 yards in seven plays as Kincade scored on a 9-yard run to give the Tigers an early 7-0 lead.
After a missed field goal, the Tigers took advantage and went 80 yards in nine plays as Carter caught a 9-yard pass from Kincade to extend the lead to 14-0 with 10:08 left in the third quarter.
Southern battled back and cut the margin in half as the Jaguars took advantage of a Carter fumble. Devon Benn scored on a 1-yard run with 3:40 left in the first half to trim the deficit to 14-7.
Back came Grambling State as the Tigers added a 42-yard field goal by Orozco to close out the first half on top, 17-7.
The Jaguars took over the momentum in the third quarter as Kendall Catalon caught a 20-yard pass from Howard to cap a five-play, 40-yard drive as Southern closed the gap to 17-14 with 3:31 remaining.
The Tigers quickly answered as Orozco booted a 37-yard field goal with 13:57 left in the fourth and that set the stage for a wild final five minutes.
It all started with the first play from scrimmage. Je’Terious Pouncy picked off Howard and Grambling State cashed that into seven points.
But if you thought that was the difference, how about the fact that the Tigers turned a missed field goal into another seven points, and led 14-0 in the third quarter.
Pouncy wasn’t done as he added a blocked field goal to keep Grambling State on top 17-7 in the third quarter.
Southern was able to cash in on the only Grambling State turnover to cut the margin to 17-14 in the third.
The Tigers sealed the game late off two Jaguar turnovers. The first came when Brandon Varner sacked Howard and forced a fumble. He also recovered the fumble. The second came with 1:23 left when De’Aumante Johnson picked off Howard.
Grambling State took a knee for the final two plays to pick up its third consecutive Bayou Classic victory.
Grambling State returns to action next Saturday at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas as the Tigers meet Alcorn State for the 2017 SWAC Championship game. The Tigers and Braves met earlier this season with Grambling State picking up a 41-14 on Oct. 21 in Grambling, La. Kickoff for the 2017 SWAC Championship game is set for 3:30 p.m.