The 43rd Bayou Classic was billed as a matchup of heavyweights with the SWAC Division title at stake.
In the black and gold corner was Grambling State, the defending division champion with a perfect 8-0 conference record and a 17-game regular season SWAC winning streak. In the blue and gold corner was the challenger, Southern University, also 8-0 in the conference and riding an eight-game winning streak.
Grambling (9-1, 9-0 SWAC) emerged with the victory by knockout, 52-30, at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans after landing three third-quarter haymakers that broke open what had been close game. The Tigers will face East champ Alcorn State, the defending conference champion, for the league title Saturday in Houston in a rematch of last year’s championship game. Alcorn will be trying to win its third straight conference crown.
Grambling, which led 17-13 at the half, put Southern (8-3, 8-1 SWAC) down for the count with three long scoring plays the third period. Quarterback Devante Kincade dazed the Jaguars with a 45-yard touchdown run at the 11:56 mark. The play was one of several punches that Kincade landed in the game. The Ole Miss transfer threw for 275 yards and one touchdown while completing 24 of 33 attempts without an interception.
Running back Martez Carter’s 66-yard touchdown run staggered Southern as the Jaguars fell behind 31-13. Lyndemian Brooks added a 34-yard scoring run with 4:02 left in the period. The G-Men used just three plays on each of the scoring drives.
Grambling’s third-quarter scoring flurry left Southern in need of a standing eight count going into the fourth quarter. The G-Men led 38-20 after rolling up 209 total yards in the third period. They continued to land punches and pile up points in the final period and ended the contest with 571 total yards. Kincade hooked up with Chad Williams on a seven-yard touchdown pass, and Carter had an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Carter ended the game with 279 all-purpose yards – 118 rushing, 28 receiving, 104 returning kickoffs and 29 returning punts.
Southern stood toe-to-toe with Grambling in the first half and traded punches with the Tigers. The Jaguars scored first and led 6-0 when quarterback Austin Howard and Willie Quinn teamed up on an 18-yard touchdown pass. Grambling scored touchdowns on Carter’s 11-yard run and a 32-yard pass from Williams to Verlan Hunter and a 25-yard field goal by Jonathan Williams for a 17-6 lead. However, Lenard Tillery delivered an 85-yard touchdown run to get the Jaguars close at 17-13.
Southern had more total yards than Grambling in the first half – 289-226 – and had could have held the lead had it not been for a pair of turnovers. Quarterback Austin Howard lost a fumble at the goal line with 4:07 left in the first quarter and Grambling leading 7-6. Howard was intercepted at Grambling’s 30-yard line on the Jaguars’ next possession.
Grambling had no answer in the first half for Southern running back Lenard Tillery, the SWAC all-time rushing leader with 4,471 career yards. Tillery ran fro 234 yards, 11 shy of his career high, with 199 coming in the first half, including an 85-yard second-quarter touchdown. He ended the season with a school record 1,569 yards
North Greenville 45, Tuskegee 26 – The Golden Tigers’ season ended in the second round of the Division II playoffs for the second straight year as they weren’t able to dig themselves out of a 28-point hole. North Greenville grabbed a 28-0 first quarter lead while limiting Tuskegee (9-3) to just plays from scrimmage in the period. The Crusaders (9-4) ran roughshod over the Golden Tigers from the start.
They racked up 227 total yards in the first period and ended the game with 511. Tuskegee made a bid to make a game of it in the second half. Quarterback Kevin Lacey connected with Dekendrick Moncrief on a 28-yard touchdown with 10:24 left n the third period to make score 35-20. The Golden Tigers had an opportunity to cut further into the lead in the fourth quarter. They drove 56 yards to the North Greenville 12-yard line before turning the ball over on downs on fourth and three.
Richmond 39, North Carolina A&T 10 – Quarterback Kevin Johnson, who was being redshirted this season, riddled the Aggies for 315 yards through the air to lead the Spiders to a first round FCS playoff victory. Johnson completed 15 of 23 attempts, including a 32-yard touchdown to Brian Brown. He also scored on a seven-yard run. North Carolina A&T (9-3) took an early 7-0 on quarterback Oluwafemi Bamiro’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Denzel Keyes at 9:16 of the first quarterback.
The Spiders (9-3) responded with 23 unanswered points as Deontez Thompson scored on a two-yard run, Dejon Brissett returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown and Griffin Trau kicked field goals of 39, 33 and 34 yards for a 16-point lead at the half. The Aggies cut into the lead on Cody Jones’ 28-yard field on their first possession of the third quarter, but they didn’t score again.
Richmond put the game with Johnson’s touchdown pass to Brown and his touchdown run. North Carolina A&T’s offense was unable to get untracked as Richmond held running back Tarik Cohen, the MEAC’s career rushing leader, to 70 yards on 13 carries. Cohen ended the season with 1,588 yards, a school record. The Aggies also committed four turnovers.
Alabama State 53, Miles 20 – The Hornets exploded for 34 third-quarter points for a blowout come-from-behind victory in the 93rd Turkey Day Classic in Montgomery, Ala. Miles quarterback David Whipple threw first-quarter touchdown passes of 30 and 11 yards to Trey Smith and Devin Brown, respectively, to give the Golden Bears (5-5) a 14-0 lead.
Running back Khalid Thomas scored on a six-yard run at 3:18 of the first quarter and quarterback Quinterris Toppings scored on a one-yard run in the second period for the Hornets (4-7) to cut the lead to 14-12 at the half. Bradley Street returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to put Alabama State ahead, and the rout was on. Alabama State pounded Miles with its ground game. The Hornets ran for 291 yards. Thomas led the way with 171 yards on 10 carries.
Coastal Carolina 26, Hampton 7
Morgan State 35, Savannah State 24
South Carolina State 28, Bethune-Cookman 7