NEW ORLEANS — After a coaching change, a winning streak and a losing streak, at the end of the season that began with so much turmoil and ended Saturday with Southern’s best chance to win a Bayou Classic for the first time since 2007, linebacker Franchot West found himself in the middle of the field inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, scrambling with his teammates, barking above the noise, trying to stop Grambling one last time.
West and the Jaguars had taken a big lead, then nearly given all of it away. The archrival Tigers were driving for a potential game-winning score with less than a minute left.
From both sidelines, coaches and players screamed. The crowd of 45,980, though small, scattered and late-arriving, was certainly into it.
Moments before his fumble recovery preserved a thrilling 38-33 win in this matchup of two teams with disappointing records, West learned his responsibility: Spy on Grambling quarterback Frank Rivers, then make a play if the action comes your way.
West watched as defensive lineman Donald Phillips, a freshman from New Orleans, make a sack on Rivers, forcing the ball free. A few Grambling bodies had their chance at it, but the ball squirted away. West pounced. With 24 seconds remaining, he ran off the field with the ball in hand — and the victory, as well.
“No greater feeling. No greater feeling,” the junior said. “It’s a great feeling for us to finish off a season like this, with a win in the Bayou Classic.”
In holding off the archrival Tigers (1-10, 0-9 Southwestern Athletic Conference), the Jaguars (4-7, 3-6) salvaged a game it controlled for much of the final three quarters.
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