Bayou Classic loss provides Grambling with lessons, motivation

BACK FOR MORE:  True freshman Floyd Chalk IV, Grambling’s Player of the Game in Saturday’s Bayou Classic, will return in 2023 after rushing eight times for 120 yards against Southern. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal)


NEW ORLEANS — Hue Jackson’s first season as Grambling’s football coach ended like it began, with a lot of excitement that faded into frustration.

But Jackson believes lessons learned this fall, culminating in the 34-17 loss Saturday to Southern in the 49th Annual Bayou Classic, will serve as motivation and to chart a course to getting the Tigers back to their traditional status as a Southwestern Athletic Conference contender.

There was much hoopla when the former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator was introduced last December to take over the Tigers’ program. Generally, Jackson has taken a very low-key approach since, closing practices and keeping an even keel through the ups and downs of his first season.

Saturday afternoon in the Caesars Superdome, Grambling took an early lead and swapped the advantage three times with Southern. The Jaguars (7-4, 5-3) didn’t generate much offense against the Tigers, but worked their way on top early in the fourth quarter, scoring 20 points in the final period – including two TDs by the defense.

Grambling finished 3-8 overall and 2-6 in the SWAC. That included an overtime loss at Alabama A&M and a 20-16 defeat at home the next week to a 9-2 Florida A&M squad.

Jackson’s postgame remarks Saturday considered the entire season and focused on the mistakes, penalties and turnovers that proved pivotal in the Bayou Classic outcome.

“We’ve got to grow from it. We’re not where we want to be. I think to a man — every member of the coaching staff and every player — we know this is not where we want to be, and it’s not where we’re going to be. So we respect where we are even though we’re not even close to where we’re going. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. 

“I just told the team that I’m proud of them and love them all, but the next thing for us is to improve. We’ve got to get better and we’ve got to get better fast,” he said.

Jackson said he was thankful this holiday season for a group of senior football players who never gave up the fight.

“They mean a ton to me, I just told them that,” Jackson said of his seniors. “I’m proud of them. I’m proud of the effort and the way they represented this team. They never wavered a bit, even when it was tough and even bleak. Those guys fought through. They’re the guys who suddenly helped us win two in a row, fighting down the stretch. 

“I’m thankful for those guys. But at the same time, I want them to be proud of what they started here. The only way we can give it back to them is to next year be a lot better football team.”

And Jackson said he already has next year’s 50th Bayou Classic on his mind. Southern’s win over the Tigers gave the Jaguars a 25-24 advantage in the series between the schools since the Bayou Classic was born. 

“It was 24-24 coming in — they’ve got one up on us now,” Jackson said. “We’ll be preparing for the next one for 365 days until we get the chance to do it again and get it back to 25-25, that’s for sure.” 

  • With reporting by T. Scott Boatright, Lincoln Parish Journal