NEW ORLEANS, La. â€“ Grambling State advanced to the 2008 SWAC Championship Game for the second consecutive year with a 29-14 comeback victory over archrival Southern in the 35th annual State Farm Bayou Classic at the Louisiana Superdome.
On Grambling’s first drive of the contest, quarterback Greg Dillon lost a prime scoring opportunity as the sophomore fumbled in the end zone for a Southern touchback. The Jaguars immediately took advantage of the gift and marched 80 yards in 11 plays for a 6-0 lead after quarterback Bryant Lee connected with Juamorris Stewart for a 26-yard score. After a GSU punt on its next possession, Southern moved ahead 13-0 on an Alvin Fosselman 1 yard rush with 44 ticks left in the quarter. Josh Duran’s PAT sailed through the uprights as Southern’s 14-0 margin was Grambling’s largest SWAC deficit of the season.
Grambling opened the second quarter with a burst of energy as the Tigers cut SU’s lead to 14-6 on Dillon’s 14-yard touchdown run with 9:39 left. However, the momentum was shortlived as Dillon once again turned the ball over on GSU’s next drive after being stripped by SU’s Toyin Akinwale at the SU 42. A botched fake punt by SU on the ensuing drive turned the momentum back to Grambling and the Tigers immediately responded with a 2-play, 51-yard drive that was capped off by Nick Lewis’ 11-yard pass from Dillon to close out the half down 14-12.
The third quarter began on a positive note for Grambling as they moved ahead 15-14 after Luis Leal’s 25-yard field goal on the opening drive. From that point, the contest turned into a battle of field position and missed opportunities as both teams combined to miss a field goal apiece in addition to an SU interception and GSU fumble.
With defense its calling card for the entire season, senior linebacker Keefe Hall made the game’s biggest play early in the fourth stanza as he intercepted SU’s Warren Matthews for a 30-yard return to the GSU 4. On the very first play of the ensuing drive, Grambling moved ahead 21-14 on Cornelius Walker’s 4-yard run. Leal’s PAT was good as GSU forced SU into an 8-point deficit with 12:44 left in the contest.
T.J. McCord appeared to put the contest away on SU’s next drive after picking off Matthews on the GSU 3. Grambling’s next offensive drive stalled but the Tiger defense once again came up with another stop after forcing SU to punt with four minutes left.
As a result of the stop, the Tiger offense put the icing on the cake as Frank Warren gave GSU its first Bayou Classic win since 2006 with a 31-yard rush with 1:13 remaining.
Grambling State finished the game with 368 (217 R, 151 P) total offensive yards while SU netted 333 (291 P, 42 R). Dillon had another solid performance with 151 yards passing on 9-of-13 attempts and 136 rushing yards on 26 attempts. Lewis led all GSU receivers with three receptions for 58 yards and a touchdown while Hall closed out his final Bayou Classic with 12 tackles.
The Tigers will advance to the 2008 SWAC Championship Game in two weeks at Legion Field in Birmingham , Ala. versus Jackson State . The berth marks the third time in four years that GSU will make an appearance in the SWAC Championship Game.