Home from Notre Dame, Diggs is a happy Tiger as LSU visits Ole Miss

SECRET TO DIGGS’ SUCCESS:  AJ Diggs is the very proud, and accomplished, mother of LSU running back Logan Diggs, the Tigers’ leading rusher. (Submitted photo)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

OXFORD, Ms. – LSU’s 62-point beatdown of Grambling on Sept. 9 was in the books, Tigers’ coach Brian Kelly had finished his post-game media conference.

The press gathered three-deep around a lectern waiting for player interviews. Suddenly, the crowd parted as junior running back Logan Diggs stepped in front of the battery of TV cameras and bright lights.

Since this was Diggs’ first time to talk to the media covering LSU after he transferred from Notre Dame on May 3, it was a bit of a shock when a smallish, pleasant-faced, bespectacled and polished young man thoughtfully and intelligently answered questions about his Tigers’ debut of 115 yards rushing and one TD on 15 carries.

This is the first thing you learn about the 6-foot, 221-pound Diggs, a former New Orleans Rummel High star. He speaks softly but runs loud.

Heading into Saturday’s SEC West Division showdown between No. 12 LSU (3-1, 2-0 SEC West) at No. 20 Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1 SEC West) here today at 5:30 p.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Diggs is the SEC’s third-leading rusher averaging 84.33 yards per game with 253 yards on 33 carries for a healthy 6.66 yards per carry.

After missing the season-opening loss vs. Florida State because of a hamstring injury that had been nagging him since last spring at Notre Dame before he transferred, Diggs has started the last three games for the Tigers and stabilized the team’s running attack that’s ranked third in the SEC averaging 191.75 yards per game.

“I really needed my burst back,” Diggs said of why LSU head coach Brian Kelly decided to rest Diggs vs. Florida State. “That was the only thing that was missing. I’m very grateful to the coaches and training staff for making sure.”

Kelly had no problem starting Diggs as soon as he was healthy. After all, Diggs was signed by then-Notre Dame head coach Kelly in December 2020 and played his freshman season in 2021 under Kelly before he jumped to LSU to replace the fired Ed Orgeron.

“We were looking for somebody that could change the dynamics of our (Notre Dame) running back room and we liked just liked the way he played the game,” Kelly said of his original recruitment of Diggs.

“He was somebody that that had an edge to him. He had the skills to play at the highest level. And he was a really good student.”

Even with LSU finally offering Diggs a scholarship a few days before the December 2020 early signing period, Diggs stuck to his earlier commitment. A Notre Dame education and a legitimate chance of being able to crack the running back rotation were too much for Diggs to turn down.

All in all, he had two solid seasons for the Fighting Irish despite battling flu that sidelined him for half of his freshman season and then undergoing post-spring practice 2022 surgery for a torn labrum that slowed the start to his sophomore season.

As a freshman in 2021, he ran for 230 yards and three TDs on 52 carries and had 6 catches for 56 yards and one TD. Diggs led the team in carries with 165 as a sophomore in 2022 and was the team’s second-leading rusher with 820 yards and four TDs.

When he began battling a hamstring injury last spring, Diggs surmised he may need a fresh start.

“I felt like I kind of hit like a plateau,” Diggs said. “I wasn’t excelling or getting any better. I felt like I wanted a new challenge. I wanted that new challenge and there was no other place to go but to the SEC and be able to play the best of the best competition every single week.”

So, when Diggs put his name in the transfer portal last April 27 five days after Notre Dame’s spring, Kelly hopped on him immediately.

Diggs wanted to play the last years of his college career in a locale convenient for his family members and friends to see him play in person.

Though she made many trips to South Bend, no one is happier to have Diggs back home than his mother AJ who has been his guiding light and inspiration every step of his journey.

As a single mother raising her two boys, AJ Diggs earned a degree from Nichols State in 2010 while working.

For almost 7½ years, she worked as a registered medical assistant for the Ochsner Health System. Then, she worked just more than four years as a Disability Analyst for the state of Louisiana.

She not only provided for her sons, but she set the bar for them on how to attack life no matter the circumstances.

“My mom is my backbone,” Diggs said. “She sacrificed so much for me and my brother. She made sure that we had a roof over our heads and had food on the table every night. She just taught me to never quit and just to keep going no matter how hard times may get. Rely on your faith in God and continue to push through it.”

About a year ago, with her kids fully raised, AJ Diggs did something that thrilled her sons. She became a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines.

“My mom can really sing and had dreams of being on Broadway,” Diggs said. “She also always wanted to be a flight attendant. She had the confidence, the strength and the faith to do something different and she went to chase one of her dreams. That gave me the confidence to do the same thing (deciding to transfer to LSU).” 


Tackles for loss for Ole Miss in each of its four games this season 

12 is the number of players on LSU’s current roster who’ve played a game at Ole Miss 

22 Consecutive games with a pass reception for LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers 

22.4: Seconds per play for Ole Miss, the 5th fastest in the FBS 

400: Yards or more total offense for LSU QB Jayden Daniels in three games in his career, second behind Joe Burrow’s school record of six games.

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Demons wrap up non-conference slate by hosting Eastern Illinois

DEMON DENIAL: Northwestern State’s Ray Gibson stuffs Stephen F. Austin’s Jerrell Wimbley during the Demons’ Sept. 16 loss to the Lumberjacks. (Photo by Chris Reich/NSU Photographic Services)


NATCHITOCHES — The Northwestern State football team may not have fully hit the reset button during its open week, but it did some soul searching.

The results of those discoveries will be put on display today at 6 p.m. when the Demons (0-3) return to action by hosting Eastern Illinois (3-1) at Turpin Stadium in the second of back-to-back home games.

“I don’t know if we necessarily reset, but there was a lot more time to reflect on the things we’re doing well and the things we’ve got to improve on,” sixth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “You get to dive into it a little deeper. To me, getting guys healthy is No. 1 (during a bye week). Number two, schematically and personnel-wise, you get to see where you are.”

The matchup between the Panthers and Demons is the back end of a home-and-home series that began in 2022 as part of the Southland-Ohio Valley scheduling alliance.

A season ago, it was Northwestern State who was the road team, brimming with confidence and riding a two-game win streak. This time, the Panthers hit the road, brimming with confidence and riding a two-game winning streak.

Eastern Illinois has won its past two games with late-game rallies to edge then-No. 25 Illinois State (14-13) on Sept. 16 and McNeese (31-28) this past Saturday on Stone Galloway’s 56-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining.

Still, the Demons’ focus remains inward.

“We don’t look back at what we’ve done in the past,” said junior guard Jordan Cooper, who has started the first three games of the season. “We focus on what we do moving forward.”

Northwestern State’s emphasis on family remains – even if the weekend off allowed players and coaches to go their separate ways for a couple of days.

“It let everybody refresh and got us away from each other,” said sophomore cornerback Anthony Richard Jr., who ranks second on the team with three pass breakups. “Sometimes, too much time spent together can be detrimental to a team, but we all love each other. It’s good to be back.”

After playing incredibly familiar opponents in the first three weeks – Northwestern State has faced UL Lafayette, Louisiana Tech and Stephen F. Austin a combined 233 times – the Demons’ second straight home game brings forth a decidedly less common foe.

While the Demons and Eastern Illinois met a season ago, it was just the fourth time the teams had met – the first in 29 years. However, Laird sees value in the matchup – one that ends the Demons’ four-game non-conference schedule and serves as a final tune-up for Southland Conference play, which begins Oct. 7 at Lamar.

“It’s great for our conference when you have a non-conference game to stay FCS vs. FCS and play against a different conference,” Laird said. “They’ve played not only us but other teams in our conference. This is a good return trip and a good opportunity outside of our conference to showcase what we have.”

The game will air on ESPN+ with Shreveport’s Patrick Netherton doing play-by-play, three-time All-American and two-time Super Bowl champion Gary Reasons, a three-time All-American for the Demons, as analyst with Shreveporter Tyler Moody on the sidelines coverage.

State Fair Classic gives Grambling chance at three straight

GOOD CHANCE:  Grambling State sophomore running back Chance Williams (2) rushed for 174 yards and a score during last week’s home win over Texas Southern. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal)

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

DALLAS — One popular belief in football is that teams can’t be rivals if only one is winning year in and out.

If so, that means Grambling State University will be fighting to reignite a rivalry with Prairie View as the Tigers and Panthers clash in the Texas State Fair Classic at the Cotton Bowl in a game set for a 6 p.m. kickoff tonight.

Grambling has lost five straight to Prairie View going back to 2018. GSU leads the all-time series between the two teams 51-22-1. Since the teams moved their rivalry to the State Fair Classic in 1985, the Tigers have gone 27-10 vs. the Panthers.

On a two-game winning streak since getting understandably routed at LSU, Grambling State (2-2 overall, 1-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) is looking for its first victory over Prairie View A&M (2-2, 2-0) since the Tigers won 34-21 in the annual Dallas matchup.

Last season, the Panthers came out on top 34-14.

Head G-Man Hue Jackson understands the meaning and intensity behind this contest, especially with 20 of his players coming from the Dallas area.

“Rivalries are great things,” Jackson said during press conferences held in Dallas on Monday. “I was at USC and playing LSU was always big. It’s awesome being part of those kinds of rivalries. But this thing is a little different, because of the schools, the culture, and all the food they bring to these particular events. It’s outstanding and it’s great football.”

Jackson admits to feeling better heading into the game against Prairie View than he did this time last year.  

“I don’t feel pressure this year,” Jackson said. “I felt it last year because I really didn’t know my football team. I didn’t know my staff. I didn’t know this event (State Fair Classic). I didn’t know anything.

“But this year I’m ready for this. My team is ready for this. And I’m excited about playing.”

Jackson said he also feels more comfortable this go round.

 “I’m more comfortable,” Jackson said. “I understand the HBCU space better. I understand what my players have to deal with every day. And to me, that’s the most important thing — understanding what the players have to deal with on a daily basis. If you understand that, it makes you a better coach and you can coach a better game.”

Jackson has his offense rolling after defeating Texas Southern 35-23 last Saturday. The G-Men rushed for 282 yards led by Chance Williams’ 174-yard effort with a touchdown on 19 carries.

Those kinds of numbers have helped Grambling become the SWAC’s best scoring offense (33.5 ppg) and the best total offense (397.5 ypg). 

GSU also has the second-best run offense in the conference, putting up 179.0 yards per game. 

The key for Grambling’s defense will be holding Prairie View quarterback Tarzan Connley in check. Connley has averaged 175.8 pass yards per game with season totals of three touchdowns and three interceptions thus far this season.

Jackson said execution will play an important part in the outcome against the Panthers.

“What we’re trying to do now is take care of the little things,” Jackson said. “Prairie View is a great football team. They’re well coached. I understand that and my team does, too, so we’ve got to go do everything we can to try and win this football game.”

Contact Scott at tscottboatright@gmail.com

If you think the SEC is hated now, just wait until next year

The rest of the country despises the Southeastern Conference.

They can’t stand the league marketing slogan “It Just Means More.”

Yeah, more revenue generated than any other league to spend on more recruiting, more facilities and more marketing to build more programs in all men’s and women’s sports designed to steamroll everything in its way year after year.

Five league schools – Alabama, Auburn, Florida Georgia and LSU – have combined to have won the last 13 of 17 national football championships, including a current streak of four straight.

“The College Football Playoff selection is rigged,” SEC haters scream.

Five conference members have won the last 6 of 9 College World Series, including LSU in 2023, Ole Miss in 2022, Mississippi State in 2021 and Vanderbilt in 2019 after the COVID outbreak cancelled most of the 2020 baseball season.

“That’s easy to do when the SEC gets at three to four teams in the CWS every year because they get home field advantage in the regionals and Super Regionals,” seething SEC detractors complain.

If you think there’s now a sensory overload doomsday feeling the SEC wins just about everything now – more than 200 national championships since the first league expansion to 12 teams in 1991-92, then consider this next piece of information.

Five SEC schools won eight national championships in the 2022-23 academic year – Georgia (football), LSU (baseball and women’s basketball), Florida (men’s golf and men’s outdoor track), Arkansas (men’s and women’s indoor track) and Vanderbilt (women’s bowling).

Add the national titles won by Texas (women’s outdoor track and volleyball) and by Oklahoma (gymnastics and softball), which join the SEC a year from now, and the number jumps to 12 NCAA national team titles won this past school year by the future SEC family.

Which makes SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey extremely happy.

“If you look at the history of college football, we added two of the top five programs with (the best) winning percentage,” said Sankey, who attended the Arkansas at LSU game last weekend and met with the media prior to kickoff. “The crowds that they’ll attract when they play make me excited for the future.

“We have to prepare with the intensity of the competition. That’s not only in football, though. You look at the national championships this past spring that our future configuration won.

“It’s going to a remarkable level of competition in every sport.”

In the last 15 years, every SEC member except for Missouri has won a national championship in one of the 20 sports (9 men, 11 women) that the league sponsors. Thirteen league schools have captured national titles in multiple sports.

The SEC wheels of expansion have always turned slowly yet with deliberate purpose.

It took the league 35 years to grow from 10 teams to 12 teams with the addition of Arkansas and South Carolina starting in the 1991-92 school year.

Twenty-one years would pass before the SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012 as the 13th and 14th schools. And now, we are in the final season in every sport before Oklahoma and Texas become the 15th and 16th SEC members starting in the 2024-25 school year.

Except for the 1992 expansion when the SEC actively sought Florida State and Texas, the league hasn’t had to shop for schools. As decades passed with the league gaining steam with TV contracts that provided unprecedented revenue and exposure that led to the birth of ESPN’s 24-hour-a-day SEC Network in August 2014, schools approached the SEC about joining the league.

There are a couple of things the SEC has always known when adding new members. The schools are usually the flagship universities in their respective states or they must be in a state connecting to a state or states that already have current SEC members.

Unlike the Big Ten which will add next year two new members (USC and UCLA) located three time zones away from the majority of the league, or the ACC will add three schools including Stanford and Cal, which are more than 2,700 miles from most current ACC numbers, all 16 teams in the new SEC reside in 12 states that somehow border each other.

“Being geographically sensible was very much on our mind,” Sankey said. “You want young student-athletes in class preparing themselves academically and preparing competitively and not on airplanes.

“We had a clarifying conversation (with SEC member presidents and chancellors) in June 2022. It was one of our chancellors who said, `We really know who we are. We have a sense of identity that fans and teams and people want to be a part of it. So, let’s just focus on our identity.’

“What happened this summer (which the Big Ten and ACC leap-frogging time zones to steal Pac 12 schools as new members) validates our decision to move the way we did when there was an opportunity with Oklahoma and Texas.

“We still should be thinking from a geographic standpoint. Interestingly enough, we don’t stretch schools further. Some of our teams will have reduced mileage in travel, and that’s pretty unique.”

The league is still hashing a conference football schedule beyond next season’s eight-game league slate, which includes Texas and Oklahoma each playing seven current SEC schools each besides playing themselves. LSU, after playing Oklahoma just three times in the history of both programs (all in the postseason), will host the Sooners for the first time in the regular season.

Sankey still would like a nine-game SEC schedule in the future with three permanent opponents and six rotating opponents. LSU’s likely three permanent opponents would be Alabama, Texas A&M and Ole Miss.

“Are things going to change?” Sankey said. “Yes. How much change? We’re working through that. The conference controls the schedule and there are a variety of ways we’ve scheduled over time. Now, we’re at 16 teams, there are a lot of pieces.”

Just makes the chess match in every SEC sport more intriguing than any time in its 91-year history.

And the rest of the country can’t take much more of “It Just Means More.”

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Mulkey knows this LSU team carries highest expectations

LOCAL GIRL DOES GOOD:  LSU freshman guard Mikaylah Williams from Parkway High warms up in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Monday on the opening day of practice for the defending national champions. (Journal photo by RON HIGGINS)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – – Prior to taking over as LSU’s women’s head basketball coach two seasons ago, Kim Mulkey already had six national championships on her Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame resume.

There were back-to-back titles in 1981 and 1982 as a spunky ponytailed Louisiana Tech point guard, one in 1988 as a Tech assistant coach under Leon Barmore and three as Baylor’s head coach in 2005, 2012 and 2019.

As a player, Mulkey nearly won a third straight title in 1983 but lost to USC 69-67 when she missed a game-tying shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime. As an assistant coach, Tech returned to the Final Four in 1989 and lost 76-71 in the semifinals.

As Baylor’s head coach, two of her defending national championship teams were eliminated in the Sweet 16 and the third never got a chance to play in the postseason when the COVID outbreak canceled the 2020 NCAA tournament.

The common thread of all those experiences is something her 2023-24 Lady Tigers squad is about to discover after winning the school’s first NCAA basketball title (men’s or women’s) last April.

“If you’re the underdog (as LSU was last season) and you win a national championship, you didn’t probably get everybody’s best shot,” Mulkey said Monday afternoon before her uber-talented team opened practice before an estimated Pete Maravich Assembly crowd of 2,500. “If you’re the favorite, you’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”

It’s what Mulkey expects with a team returning first-team All-America junior forward Angel Reese and sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson, who was last year’s SEC Freshman of the Year.

There’s also the infusion of Louisville graduate student guard Hailey Van Lith and DePaul junior forward Aneesah Morrow, college basketball two highest-rated transfers. The icing on the recruiting cake is having the nation’s No. 1 ranked signing class led by Parkway High School guard Mikaylah Williams (the No. 2 nationally ranked recruit) and Nashville (Tn.) Webb School center Aalyah Del Rosario (the No. 7 nationally ranked recruit).

Mulkey often said last season she didn’t mind coaching big personalities such as Reese and Johnson. But in the almost seven months since LSU scored the most points ever in a national title game when the Lady Tigers destroyed Iowa 102-85, Reese has become one of the most recognizable women’s athletes in the world.

Besides winning a silver medal playing for Team USA in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup, she was photographed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue as well for a cover story of the magazine’s issue about college athletics legally earning income through name, image and likeness.

Reese also appeared in a Cardi B music video. She made an Amazon commercial with teammate Johnson and also appeared with several NBA stars in a commercial for Starry Soda. She was featured in Time Magazine’s Time100 Next issue.

In the On3 website listing the current top 100 men’s and women’s athletes NIL evaluations, Reese is No. 8 at $1.7 million, Johnson No. 19 at $1.1 million and Van Lith No. 79 at $550,000.

At this time last season, Reese was just a non-descript transfer from Maryland hoping a change of scenery and a new head coach could make her a pro prospect. But her expansive fame seemingly overnight has given Mulkey something to ponder that she never faced before as she starts her 24th season as a college head coach.

How do you motivate a star player who is a millionaire according to her NIL evaluation?

“Is Angel Reese hungry?” Mulkey wondered out loud. “She’s making money like crazy. Is she going to be hungry for another ring?

“You get a feel for that in your first individual meeting (before the start of the fall semester). I sat down with Angel, talked about her summer, and then we talked about her being here.

“She said something I won’t ever forget,” Mulkey said. She said `Coach, I’m tired. I’m so glad to be back. I’m ready to play basketball.’ I was looking to hear that and not have to pull it out of her.

“She understands she doesn’t have all of the things she has if she doesn’t have success on the court. She understands that she just had the most unbelievable year of her college career and it was fun. And you’re not entitled to that again unless you work.

“She gets motivated by things that most athletes do. Last week, they put a projection out that she’d be the eighth pick in the (2024 WNBA) draft. Well, that was an insult to her. She wanted to know what she had to work on. We told her and it motivates her to get in the gym. She gets motivated by somebody in practice going head-to-head with her and blocking her shot or talking trash back at her. She’s a competitor.”

So are transfers Van Lith and Morrow. After averaging 19.7 points and 25.7 points respectively last season, that duo provides the Lady Tigers with proven, experienced scorers.

“Morrow and Van Lith bring experience and it matters,” said Mulkey, who’s 60-8 overall and 28-4 in the SEC after her two LSU seasons. “When you take a freshman and then you take a transfer that’s got three years of college experience and you just put them out there, you just obviously can see the difference. And it has nothing to do with talent.”

Yet the freshman that could crash the playing rotation is Williams, the 2023 Morgan Wooten National Player of the Year and two-time reigning Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year who led Parkway to a 2023 state title.

“Mikaylah brings a physical body that’s ready for college,” Mulkey said. “The first thing you’ll notice is she’s pretty physical and can play any position on the perimeter. That may not be fair to her. Because one day I may have her playing point guard and the next day off-guard. That’s tough, particularly if you’re having to learn the point guard position.”

LSU plays home exhibition games vs. East Texas Baptist on Oct. 26 and Loyola of New Orleans on Nov. 1. The Lady Tigers face Colorado on Nov. 6 in Las Vegas to open the regular season.

The NCAA national championship banner will be raised to the PMAC rafters in pregame of the Nov. 9 home opener vs. Queens.

“This season is going to be different in a lot of ways,” said the 61-year-old Mulkey, who had two stents surgically inserted into a blocked heart artery in June. “We’re just about to sell out the P-Mac (in home season tickets). The (LSU) brand is bigger, the NIL stuff is bigger, our schedule is a little harder, and our depth and our talent are much more.

“All of that is a good thing. And we’ll just have to stay away from injuries and see what happens.”

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Grambling naming football field to honor legendary QBs Harris, Williams


GRAMBLING — Two legendary figures in the rich history of Grambling State football, trailblazing quarterbacks and NFL executives James ‘Shack” Harris and Doug Williams, will be forever immortalized inside Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.

The GSU Athletic Department announced Tuesday the field at Robinson Stadium will be named after Harris and Williams during the Tigers’ homecoming game on Oct. 14. It will officially become James “Shack” Harris and Doug Williams Field at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.

“It is our pleasure to honor two of the greatest members of the Grambling State football family,” said Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Trayvean Scott. “These two men have long represented what it means to be a G-Man and have achieved so much while breaking down barriers that few thought were attainable during their playing days. We can’t wait to add another brick to castle of greatness they’ve built.”

“Honoring these two Grambling Legends will be the highlight of our 2023 Homecoming festivities,” said President Richard “Rick” Gallot. “James ’Shack’ Harris and Doug Williams epitomize greatness at the highest level of football competition. They both deserve to be honored by Grambling State University in this way.”

During his time playing under Robinson from 1965-68, Harris helped GSU to four Southwestern Athletic Conference championships.  As a three-year starter, Harris led the Tigers to a 24-5-1 record.

Harris entered the NFL chosen by the Buffalo Bills in the eighth round of the 1969 NFL Draft. He became the first African-American player to start a season at quarterback in the history of professional football.

In 1974, he led the Los Angeles Rams to an NFC West Division title and their first playoff victory since 1951. Harris then became the first African American quarterback to start a conference championship game. He also earned a spot in that year’s Pro Bowl and was the game’s MVP.

He has served in multiple executive roles in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions.

“This is an outstanding honor for me, my family, coaches and all my teammates,” said Harris. “Sharing it with Doug Williams makes it even more special. I am very fortunate to have played for the great coach Eddie Robinson. I am forever grateful to Grambling for providing me an education and tremendous HBCU experience. I hope my career represented Grambling well and made you proud.”

As a four-year starter, Williams led Robinson’s Tigers to 36-7 record, winning three SWAC championships from 1974-1977. He was also named the Black College Football Player of the Year twice.  His stellar play helped him become a Heisman Trophy candidate, and he was fourth in the voting following the 1977 campaign.

Williams was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 17th pick of the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft, becoming the first African American quarterback to be drafted in the opening round. He led the Buccaneers to the playoffs three times in the first five seasons, including a trip to the 1979 NFC Championship Game.

The Zachary native reached the zenith of his career when he led Washington to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, becoming the first Black quarterback to be named Super Bowl MVP.

In 1998, upon the retirement of Robinson as the head coach of GSU, Williams was named the new leader of Grambling State football. He won his first SWAC title as head coach in 2000, with a 10-2 overall record. The following year he led the Tigers to Black College Football National Title with a 10-1 record. He completed a SWAC championship three-peat in 2002, leading the G-Men to an 11-2 mark.

Following the 2003 season, which saw GSU claim a SWAC Western Division crown, he returned to the NFL to serve as an executive with Tampa Bay. After serving as general manager of the Virginia Destroyers in the United Football League during the 2010 season, Williams returned as head coach of Grambling State, immediately winning his fourth SWAC title as head coach in 2011.

Since 2014, he’s served as an executive for the Washington Commanders.

“This is so surreal for me. This is such a humbling honor to have James ‘Shack’ Harris and my name plastered on a field in Eddie Robinson Stadium,” said Williams. “This is something that will stand for my kids and grandkids to see.”

LSU’s Kelly sees resiliency resurgence

TOUCHDOWN: LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers makes one of his two touchdown catches in last Saturday’s 34-31 win over Arkansas. Nabers ranks first in the SEC in receptions (35) and receptions per game (8) and is second in receiving yards per game (130.75). (Photo by KRISTEN YOUNG, LSU Athletics) 

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – Rewind just more than three weeks ago, and LSU head coach Brian Kelly and his team had a long plane ride home from Orlando after a stunning 45-24 season-opening loss to Florida State.

The most puzzling thing to Kelly was the Seminoles outscored the Tigers 31-7 in the second half. LSU had 15 returning starters – 8 on offense, 7 on defense – from its 2022 SEC West Division championship squad that came back for wins vs. Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss by 17, 13 and 17 points respectively.

With those returning players, why did LSU roll over and play dead in the final two quarters vs. FSU? Where was their fight, their hunger to win?

After two blowout wins over Grambling and Mississippi State, the Tigers had to battle back from a late-second quarter deficit last Saturday in a 34-31 SEC victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kelly liked how his team climbed out of a 10-point hole by scoring in the last 30 seconds of the first half and the first minute of the second half.

“We really didn’t have the right mix of mindset going into the Florida State game, so this (the Arkansas game) was our first chance really to identify who we were when we got down,” Kelly said at his weekly Monday press conference. “We immediately responded. We came out in the second half and played the kind of football that I expect.

“Never flinching, knowing that we were going to take some more shots. And when we gave up a play, we forgot about it. We’re starting to see some resiliency from last year to this year.”

Heading into Saturday’s game between No. 13 LSU and No. 20 Ole Miss in Oxford, Kelly is happy with the Tigers’ offense that leads the SEC in scoring (42.75 points per game) and total offense (530 yards per game).

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels won the co-SEC Offensive Player of the Week for a second consecutive week, totaling 356 yards including 5 TDs vs. Arkansas. The Tigers had two 100-yard receivers (Malik Nabers 8 catches for 130 yards, 2 TDs and Brian Thomas (5 receptions for 133 yards, 2 TDs). Running back Logan Diggs almost had his second 100-yard rushing game in the last three weeks, running for 97 yards and 14 carries.

There was a lot to like offensively.

Defensively, not so much.

Arkansas gained 426 total offense yards. QB KJ Jefferson totaled 337 yards and 3 TDs passes. His constant escapes from a collapsing pass pocket consistently sent the Tigers’ defense into a tizzy, especially LSU’s defensive backs who ran around like their jerseys were on fire.

One play in the first minute of the fourth quarter – Jefferson’s scrambling 59-yard TD pass off a scramble to wide-open Luke Hasz – illustrated what Kelly believes is the crux of LSU’s defensive woes.

“This is about staying focused all the time and doing your job,” Kelly said. “He (LSU cornerback Zy Alexander) lost sight of what he should have been doing on that particular play.

“He saw the quarterback as a run threat. That’s not his (Alexander) job. His job was to be the deep half-defender. Go do your job. There was somebody else assigned to him. (Jefferson)

“We are trying to chase too many plays on defense. We’re trying to make plays that aren’t really our place to make. We need to do our job. Once we settle down and do the ordinary things extraordinarily well, this can be a really good defense.”


LSU (3-1 overall, 2-0 SEC West) at Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1 SEC West), Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Saturday, 5 p.m. (ESPN)

Last game for Ole Miss: Lost at 24-10 at Alabama last Saturday. After trailing 7-6 at halftime, Alabama was dominant on both sides of the ball in the second half as the Tide racked up 241 total offense yards compared to 148 for Ole Miss.

Series record and last meeting: LSU leads the series 64-41-4. Last season in Tiger Stadium, unbeaten Ole Miss led 17-3 in the second quarter before LSU scored 28 unanswered points in a 45-20 win. Tigers’ quarterback Jayden Daniels completed 21 of 28 passes for 248 yards and 2 TDs and ran for 121 yards and 3 TDs on 23 carries.

Ole Miss head coach: Lane Kiffin (87-48 in 12 seasons, 26-14 in his third season at Ole Miss)


Early betting line: LSU opens as a 2½-point favorite

Number of Louisiana natives on Ole Miss roster: 1

Number of Mississippi natives on LSU roster: 6

Number of transfers on Ole Miss roster from 4-year schools: 40 players from 37 schools including 19 players from 15 Power 5 Conference schools


QB Jaxson Dart (65 of 103 for 1,096 passing yards, 7 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 219 rushing yards and 3 TDs on 44 carries), WR Tre Harris (8 catches for 188 yards, 5 TDs), WR Jordan Watkins (24 catches for 347 yards, 1 TD), RB Quinshon Judkins (201 rushing yards and 4 TDs on 57 carries)

FS Trey Washington (25 tackles, 2 TFL), MLB Khari Coleman (19 tackles, 2½ TFL, 1½ sacks), SS John Saunders Jr. (18 tackles, 1 sack, 4 PBU), PK Caden Davis (7 for 9 FG, 16 of 16 extra points), P Fraser Masin (43.1 ypk, 3 fair catches, 3 inside the 20, 1 plus 50 yards), KO Caden Davis (31 KO for 63.4 average, 23 touchbacks, 1 out of bounds), KR Ulysses Bentley IV (6 for 113 yards), PR Jordan Watkins (4 for 72 yards, 1 TD)


1. The last time Ole Miss clinched an SEC championship. . .

    A. Current head coach Lane Kiffin wasn’t yet born

    B. The Beatles hadn’t made their first U.S. appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

    C. Was eight days after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy

    D. All of the above

2. What is the highest finish for an Ole Miss player in Heisman Trophy voting?

    A. 3rd

    B. 2nd

    C. 1st

    D. 4th

3. Who was the former Ole Miss quarterback from the New Orleans area first to see game action in a Super Bowl?

     A. John Fourcade

     B. Eli Manning

     C. Norris Weese

     D. Pee Wee Reese

ANSWERS: 1. D, 2. A, 3. C

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Trip of a lifetime with my old team

It’s been 28 years since I have traveled with the Louisiana Tech football team. In November of 1995, I went to Nashville, Tennessee with the Bulldogs as their right tackle. We had a forgettable date, 29-6, with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Last Friday, as the sideline reporter for the LA Tech Football Radio Network, I traveled with the team to Lincoln as the Bulldogs faced Nebraska on Saturday.

In some ways it seems like a hundred years ago since I’d traveled with the team. In other ways it seems like it was yesterday.

Something about packing in the old Tech charter bus with my brothers and heading east on I-20 to the airport in Monroe. Going to battle!

In my day, the bus would pull up on the tarmac – about 40 yards from the plane – and “the race” would be on.

The race was between the taller offensive linemen who coveted those seats on the wing with the extra leg room. The defensive linemen were not in play. They didn’t have a chance. They were on Bus No. 2.

Back then, the last people to get on the plane would be the administrators, coaches and wives, and supporters.

The late Dr. Guthrie Jarrell was always with us on those trips. Always. He sat in first class where – being a tall man himself – I’m sure he appreciated the extra leg room, too.

“It must be nice.” If I didn’t say it back then, I thought it. It must be nice to be able to take in a college football game and root, root, root, for ol’ red and blue. It must be nice to not have to worry about your blocking assignments and taking the proper first step before trying to knock the block off a guy who is a 6-3, 245-pound, five-star SEC defensive end who runs like a deer.

Don’t get me wrong.

There is nothing like the rush of trotting out on the field in some of the sport’s biggest and best venues in front of thousands of people and playing the greatest game God ever created. Williams-Bryce. Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama. Been there. In the trenches. Hand-to-shoulder pad combat. Hat on a hat. At the bottom of the pile. There is nothing like it.

Even back then, I said I always wanted to take a trip with the team and experience it…without the pressure. Thanks to Learfield and the Tech administration, I was able to do that last Friday.

The trips are a little different now. There were no security checks back then. Now, you get your snacks before getting on the plane. Assigned seats. A little thank you note from Tech head coach Sonny Cumbie.

It was nice…even with knees jammed into the back of an airplane seat and praying to God a sixth grader sitting in front of me doesn’t want to see how far his seat back can go.

The University of Nebraska is known for storied tradition, 100-year old Memorial Stadium, the fumblerooski, and their loyal fan base. Among other things. 391 consecutive sellouts! Are you kidding me, Cornhuskers? Wow.

When the Louisiana Tech entourage arrived in Lincoln, everyone went straight to the stadium and walked out on Tom Osborne Field. Red signs reading “There is no place like Nebraska” were lit up all over the stadium.

Back in the day, we would get in our shorts and T-shirts and have a walk-through practice after arriving Friday. The walk-through for the Bulldogs on this trip happened in the parking lot of the Marriott in Omaha, Nebraska early Saturday morning.

Impressive was the adjective for when Memorial Stadium was empty. Incredible would be the word for Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when Big Red took the field against my Bulldogs with 85,000 Cornhusker fans in the stands.

When the announcer says “and that will bring up THIRRRRRDDD DOOOOWWWNNNNN!!!,” most in the sea of red stand on their feet and scream their heads off. On third down, I’ve never heard a louder stadium…ever.

The score was 7-7 at halftime and I could not have been more proud of how the Bulldogs competed.

Things got away from Tech as the second half started. The big offensive line from Nebraska, with the smallest lineman being 6-3, 315, leaned on the Tech defense. Pulling the left guard and running off tackle to the right side all the way down the field.

Penalties. Personal fouls. And one flag – a pass interference call – which was thrown and then picked up, hurt the Bulldogs. A good fight, but 28-14 was the final.

While the outcome was not what Louisiana Tech wanted, it was a memorable time – at least for this old Dawg, able to take the trip of a lifetime with the Louisiana Tech football team.

Contact Jerry at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com

Stay in Shreveport was springboard for Jim Hawthorne’s LSU career

By MASON SIEGEL, LSU Athletics Communications

There’s something about the true power of a voice.  For generations of LSU fans, there is no more iconic, more golden voice than Jim Hawthorne’s.

Last Friday night, Hawthorne was awarded the LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Distinguished Honor.

Known as “The Voice of the Tigers,” from 1979-2016, Hawthorne served as the radio play-by-play announcer for LSU football, baseball and men’s basketball. 

Born in Many, Hawthorne moved just south to Anacoco, in the sixth grade. He began his career at radio station KLLA as a senior in high school, serving as the play-by-play announcer for the Leesville High School Wampus Cats football team.

After graduating from high school, Hawthorne worked as a commercial radio broadcaster and DJ for KNOC in Natchitoches, while attending college at Northwestern State.

There, he befriended one of his greatest mentors, the late Norm Fletcher. Fletcher served as a play-by-play announcer for Northwestern State sports for four decades after working as a broadcaster in the U.S. military’s Far East Network during the Korean Conflict.

“I loved him, he was like a big brother to me,” Hawthorne said. “If it weren’t for him, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

With Fletcher as his guide, Hawthorne began calling his first collegiate games, serving as play-by-play announcer for NSU men’s basketball. Hawthorne then moved to Shreveport, where he worked at KWKH, one of the nation’s top 50,000-watt stations, known through much of the country as a home to LSU football as well as for a popular country music program known as the Louisiana Hayride.

While at KWKH, Hawthorne was the play-by-play announcer for Centenary College men’s basketball. He had the opportunity to call games involving future four-time NBA champion center Robert “The Chief” Parish. Hawthorne also handled Texas League baseball games and World Football League contests.

With Hawthorne still living in Shreveport and working for KWKH, the voice of LSU football, John Ferguson, visited KWKH in search of a radio announcer for LSU men’s basketball. It was there that Ferguson requested an audition tape from Hawthorne. A few weeks later, Ferguson returned to Shreveport, where the two met for lunch.

While at lunch, Hawthorne asked Ferguson if the position for LSU basketball had been filled.

“Well, that depends,” said Ferguson. 

“What does it depend on?” asked Hawthorne.

“It depends on if you’ll take the job or not,” responded Ferguson.

Hawthorne accepted the job, and his tenure as a Tiger had begun.

He began calling LSU men’s basketball games during the 1979-80 season. He went on to broadcast three NCAA Final Four appearances (1981, 1986, 2006), seven SEC regular-season championships and one SEC Tournament title.

Hawthorne covered some of college basketball’s most electrifying players, highlighted by NBA greats Shaquille O’Neal, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and a host of others. Hawthorne was also the voice behind the winningest head coach in program history, Dale Brown.

Hawthorne’s success early success with men’s basketball led him to Tiger Stadium, where he worked alongside Ferguson for a short time before becoming the voice of LSU football. From 1983 to 2015, Hawthorne covered LSU’s 22 bowl games, six SEC titles and two national championships (2003, 2007).

Some of Hawthorne’s most famous calls on the football field include the “Earthquake Game” on October 8, 1988, in which the Tiger Stadium crowd’s reaction to LSU’s game-winning touchdown pass against Auburn registered on a seismograph on campus.

In 1984, Hawthorne – who played some college baseball at Northwestern State — became the first play-by-play announcer in the history of LSU baseball. With the arrival of coach Skip Bertman in the same year, LSU baseball rapidly transformed into a national power.

“To see it start as something that people came to because they didn’t have anything else to do,” Hawthorne remembered, “and seeing it develop into the incredible powerhouse that the baseball program became under Skip Bertman was just incredible.

“I’m very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with him and for him. I don’t know if my career would’ve ended up the way it did had it not been for him.”

Hawthorne was the voice behind LSU’s first 17 College World Series appearances, six national titles and 11 SEC Tournament championships.

Of all the iconic calls over Hawthorne’s legendary career, no moment quite compares to the Warren Morris walk-off home run in the 1996 CWS finale to capture LSU’s third national title.

“That’s probably the most incredible feeling that I’ve ever had,” Hawthorne said as he recalled the moment. “I don’t know if there will ever be anything quite like it again. I’m just very proud to have been part of it.”

Hawthorne proved himself as one of the all-time greats in the industry. In 2011, he was the recipient of the Lindsey Nelson Award, an honor given to an individual who has exemplified a passion for broadcasting during his or her career.

In 2015, Hawthorne was presented with the Chris Schenkel Award in New York City. The award honors those who have lengthy, illustrious careers as college football broadcasters with ties to a particular university.

Hawthorne’s basketball accomplishments were recognized by the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches with their Mr. Basketball Award, and on June 25, 2016, he was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches.

Hawthorne credits his mother, as well as Norm Fletcher, for being integral parts of his success.

“Those two really laid the foundation for me to have had the career that I did,” he said.

The LSU Athletics Hall of Fame Distinguished Honor is icing on the cake.

“I’m very humbled by it,” he said. “It’s an incredible award with incredible recognition, and I’d always hoped I’d be worthy of it.”

Tigers try to continue recent form as Hogs visit

WINNING VIBE:  LSU defensive tonesetters Mekhi Wingo (18) and Harold Perkins Jr. have the Tigers back in stride after two lopsided wins heading into tonight’s home contest against Arkansas (Photo by GUS STARK, LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE — LSU’s football opponent changes weekly – SEC West foe Arkansas is on the menu here tonight at 6 p.m. in Tiger Stadium — but Tigers’ head coach Brian Kelly’s approach rarely wavers.

“We’ve made some tweaks and adjustments like anybody would along the way to prepare our football team in a manner that when it’s time to play,” Kelly said, “they play with a competitive edge, not only execute not but do things necessary to win football games.

The 12th-ranked Tigers (2-1 overall, 1-0 in the SEC) are almost three weeks removed from having a cold bucket of reality tossed on them in the form of a 45-24 season-opening loss to Florida State in Orlando on Sept. 3.

With 9 million viewers watching with LSU-FSU as the only game being televised that Sunday night, the then-No. 4 ranked Tigers failed miserably in just about every area.

Since then, much has changed.

Harold Perkins Jr. has moved back to SAM linebacker so he can roam free to disrupt offenses. The offensive line has returned to playing to its experience level. Injuries have forced new stars to emerge such as true freshmen Whit Weeks at linebacker and running back Kaleb Jackson who teams with Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs to provide a viable rushing attack.

Then there’s senior starting quarterback Jayden Daniels. Though he wasn’t a reason why LSU lost to FSU – he accounted for 439 yards of the Tigers’ 460 yards total offense – he has since tightened the screws on his execution.

Not counting running out the clock in the first half of last Saturday’s 41-14 win at Mississippi State, Daniels has led LSU to points on his last 13 of 14 series with 11 touchdowns and two field goals.

“We showcase what we can do if we execute a high level,” said Daniels, who in the last two games vs. Grambling and MSU completed 48 of 58 passes for 650 yards, 7 TDs and 0 interceptions and rushed for 93 yards and 2 TDs on 20 carries. “We go out there and we’re communicating. When all 11 guys are in the right place at the right time, good things can happen.”

Daniels has only been sacked three times in the last two games after getting sacked four times in the opening loss to FSU. LSU’s rushing attack, which managed just 3.1 yards per carry from its three running backs vs. FSU, got a combined 5.6 yards per carry from its backs against Grambling and Mississippi State.

It hasn’t just been elevating Diggs and Jackson to the top of the running back rotation. The offensive line is now playing like a starting unit with a combined 93 college starts.

“Our communication got a lot better (after the FSU loss),” LSU starting center Charles Turner said. “The flow of practice (the Tigers had a full-contact practice on the Tuesday before the MSU game) got a lot better. It taught us to start fast. The whole time (vs. MSU), we were just trying to set the tone and play nasty.”

LSU’s defense has had its own set of challenges. It was torched by Florida State’s taller receivers. Perkins, starting game one in his new role, looked lost and was ineffective. New faces have been plugged in to replace injured starting linebacker Omar Speights (lower-body injury) and starting safety Greg Brooks Jr. who underwent emergency surgery last Friday to remove a brain tumor.

With all that weighing on the Tigers’ defenders, their challenge this weekend is neutralizing Arkansas senior quarterback KJ Jefferson, a 6-3, 247-pound fifth-year senior who’ll be making his 30th college start vs. LSU.

As one of the best and certainly most physical dual-threat QBs, Arkansas generally goes as Jefferson goes. He’s three TDs shy of breaking Matt Jones’ career record for touchdown responsibility.

“KJ is a pretty big quarterback,” LSU starting defensive end Sai’vion Jones said. “We can’t just go in and tackle high and expect to bring him down. The emphasis is to make sure we hit him nice and low and that the backside pursuit always runs to the ball. Don’t assume he’s down.”

Jefferson, who puts his body on the line every game, is a bit banged up from last Saturday’s 38-31 home loss to BYU.

He missed last season’s game vs. LSU, a 13-10 Tigers victory in Fayetteville. Daniels, who had been sick most of the week before the game, had one of his worst outings of the season. Perkins saved the day for the Tigers with one of the best individual defensive performances (3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) in school history.

The way Arkansas fought that day gives Hogs’ coach Sam Pittman hope as his 2-1 squad begins SEC play. He’s doing his best to forget his team committed 14 penalties in the loss to BYU.

“We were dealt a hand (with Jefferson’s absence in last year’s game vs. LSU),” said Pittman, whose Razorbacks beat the Tigers 16-13 in overtime two years ago in Tiger Stadium. “But we played a physical, good game and I think that we’ll do the same thing this time. We’ve got a good football team. We lost a game and we’ve got to go get our pride back and get our respect back.” 


5: Punts this year by LSU, the fewest in the FBS. 

13: Consecutive wins for LSU when the Tigers for 200 or more yards. 

14-0: Arkansas record under third-year head coach Sam Pittman when the Hogs win the turnover battle. 

15: First-quarter completions by LSU QB Jayden Daniels last week vs. Mississippi State, the most completions in any quarter in Tigers’ football history. 

74: Career TDs for Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson, including 53 passing and 24 rushing.

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Grambling gets into SWAC season today at home

TOP TIGER: Chance Williams leads GSU with 187 yards and a score on 25 carries this season. (Photo by T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal)

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Journal Sports

GRAMBLING — It’s about to get real in “The Hole,” otherwise known as Eddie G. Robinson Stadium on the campus of Grambling State University.

Grambling opens Southwestern Athletic Conference Play at 2 p.m. today by playing host to Texas Southern.

The G-Men (1-2) will be looking for a second straight win for only the second time in two seasons under former NFL coach Hue Jackson.

Last year, in his first year as head coach at GSU, Jackson led Grambling to back-to-back wins only once, defeating Alcorn State 35-6 before downing Arkansas-Pine Bluff 36-10 with both games being played in at Eddie G. Robinson Stadium.

Texas Southern defeated Grambling 41-7 last year in Houston.

Grambling is coming off a 58-20  home win over Florida Memorial, but Jackson knows his team will be better tested against Texas Southern, which enters the game at 0-3 after falling last week 59-7 at Rice.

After falling to Prairie View 39-37 to open the season, TSU has lost its past two games by a combined score of 130-10 including a 71-7 drubbing at Toledo in Week 2.

One big question for Grambling heading into the contest will be who will get the start at quarterback for TSU.

Andrew Body started the season opener against Prairie View, completing 18-of-38 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions while adding 64 yards on 10 carries.

But  Body was apparently injured late in the game against Prairie View, giving way to Jace Wilson, who has thrown for a combined 196 yards and one touchdown on 39 passing attempts the past two weeks.

“We’re waiting to hear what the doctors are going to allow him to do,” said TSU coach Ted McKinney about the possibility of Body returning to the gridiron against Grambling during a SWAC weekly video conference. “It’s going to be a gametime decision. “We’re going to do what we do offensively. We have confidence in both Andrew and Jace. Our scheme is our scheme. We recruited those guys to play in our system.”

Whoever gets the start at quarterback for TSU against Grambling will likely be targeting Jyrin Johnson, who hauled in four passes for 49 yards and Texas Southern’s lone score against Toledo.

There’s no question who will get the start under center for Grambing against Texas Southern. Myles Crawley has thrown for six touchdowns with only one interception this season for the G-Men and is averaging 224.3 passing yards per game.

Grambling features a two-headed rushing attack in sophomores Chance Williams and Floyd Chalk IV.

Williams leads GSU with 187 yards and a score on 25 carries while Chalk has added 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 29 attempts.

Crawley will likely continue to spread the ball around after tossing touchdowns to six different receivers this season. Antonio Jones leads the G-Men with 14 catches for 162 yards but has yet to haul in a score this season.

Jackson will be looking for more from his defense, which had trouble at times slowing Florida Memorial’s rushing attack last week and is giving up 271.3 yards on the ground per game so far this season.

The head G-Man is also looking for more out of his “12th Man” in Grambling’s second home game of the season.

“We need everybody to be here against Texas Southern,” Jackson said. “We went to Houston last year and they beat us. Now they’re a good team coming here this weekend. We need more fans in the stands. We need more people screaming and yelling and making sure they root us on to victory.”

Can’t stop thinkin’ about the ‘Troy Edwards game’ as Bulldogs return to Lincoln

UP CLOSE:  Louisiana Tech defensive back Myles Heard peers into the North Texas quarterback’s eyes before a snap in last week’s loss to the Eagles. (Photo by JOSH McDANIEL, Louisiana Tech)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal

LINCOLN, Neb. — Twenty-five years ago, Louisiana Tech fans watched one of the greatest performances in the history of college football when Tim Rattay and Troy Edwards teamed up to torch the Nebraska Cornhuskers for what are still today NCAA single game records.

Rattay threw for 590 yards with an NCAA single game mark of 405 of those going to Edwards, the Shreveport-Huntington product who was on his way to the 1998 Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.

None of the current day Bulldogs were even alive when that performance took place at Memorial Stadium, a 56-27 win by the Cornhuskers.

Fast forward and Louisiana Tech returns to the scene of that offensive crime today when Sonny Cumbie and Co. face the present-day Huskers at 2:30 p.m. in a game that will be on the Big Ten Network.

Coincidentally enough, Troy Edwards son, Tru, is on this Tech team and will be making the trip to Lincoln.

However, it’s another Bulldog receiver that Nebraska head coach Matt Rhule specifically mentioned during his weekly press conference earlier in the week.

“They are going to get the ball into Smoke Harris’ hands,” Rhule told Nebraska beat writers. “He is one of the more dynamic players that you will see.”

Truer words have not been spoken. Harris has caught 24 passes for 288 yards and three scores this season through the first four games. His ability to make defenders miss has led to multiple big time plays, including the 36-yard scoring catch that tied the ballgame against North Texas in the final two minutes last week.

“It is a high compliment and high praise,” said Tech coach Sonny Cumbie on Tuesday when talking to Bulldog beat writers. “Coach Rhule is a phenomenal coach. I competed against him when he was at Baylor. He has done a phenomenal job in terms of rebuilding programs and is very clear on what he wants in his programs and how he wants his teams to play. He has seen a lot of football coming from the Carolina Panthers. For him to say that about Smoke I think it is a very high compliment.”

Harris may not touch Edwards 405-yard record today, but in order for the Bulldogs to have a chance to come out on top, the sixth-year senior will need to make some plays — whether on special teams and/or in the slot receiver position.

Cumbie points to Harris’ passion for playing football as a key for his success.

“It is a lot of joy to coach someone who practices the same way he plays with a lot of intensity and a lot of speed,” said Cumbie. “I kid our guys all the time if you talk about the guys that have played a lot of football. There is a lot of miles on those tires. He has a lot of miles on his tires and he is still running like he is brand new. It shows his passion for the game.”

Today’s game is the final non-conference game for Tech (2-2) as the Bulldogs will then play seven straight CUSA contests, including the next four on non-traditional midweek dates. Today starts a stretch where Tech plays four games in 17 days.

The Bulldogs could be without starting QB Hank Bachmeier, who is still recovering from an injury suffered in the third quarter of last week’s loss to North Texas. Red-shirt sophomore Jack Turner could get his first college start. Turner completed 9-of-14 passes last week in 20 minutes of gametime while throwing for one TD and running for a second.

“They are the opposite of us,” said Rhule. “They are going to drop back and throw it. They are going to spin it. They are going to play with tempo. They will run it too. They are going to RPO you. Offensively, they will present us with a lot of challenges.”

Nebraska (1-2) will look to pound the football on the ground. The Cornhuskers have utilized a pair of signal callers through the first three games but have settled on Heinrich Haarberg.

“We are going to have to figure out ways to get extra hats in the box,” said Cumbie.  “Both quarterbacks do a great job of running the football with zone reads and quarterback draws and with quarterback power. We are going to have to find ways to get extra hats to the box.”

Rhule said the Bulldogs defense will present some obstacles.

“Defensively, they are going to bring pressure,” said Rhule. “They are going to play man. They are going to challenge you. They are going to try to disrupt you.”

Social media often leapfrogs the boundaries of social acceptability

BATON ROUGE — Wednesday on my 67th birthday with my wife out of town on business, my imagination ran wild.

But not too far and for too long. I get mentally exhausted loading a dishwasher.

What I did before my two dogs left me birthday presents in different parts of the house (“Surprise, it’s a birthday tootsie roll, Daddy!”) was wistfully ponder what life was like without social media.

It made me smile. For a millisecond.

And then I wondered how such a society-transforming communication tool instantly greenlighted unfiltered cruelty and flipped the “on” switch for 24-hour-a-day anger.

It erased the boundaries of simply being mean and advanced to the point of senselessness. School classroom shootings have now become shootings at high school athletic events. Friday Night Lights has become Friday Night Frights.

We’re doomed if a teenager can’t be safe in an innocent social setting like a high school football game. Does the tuba player have to be strapped with a semi-automatic rifle to finish a song? Are you supposed to train one of your cheerleaders to handle a bazooka?

Without social media, we lived in a kinder world where issues and differences were settled with civility and respectful discussions.

It was a more innocent universe that didn’t seem so hurried, so accelerated. Everything wasn’t so sudden because it didn’t have to be. When something happened, good or bad, it wasn’t in front of your face within seconds. There was time to digest, ponder and have a rational thought process.

Now, like last Saturday if you see a Colorado State football player deliver a vicious hit that sends a Colorado player to the hospital, you can quickly go to social media to find published cellphone numbers of the Colorado State player and his mother and the Colorado State player’s campus address and his family’s home address.

It gives you the option of making a death threat online, over the phone, or in person.

Isn’t technology wonderful?

I try hard to ignore the fact we now live in a society in which there has been a complete deterioration of the English language and basic grammar use. Nobody wants to read anything longer than a tweet. How can we expect them to understand the difference between their, there and they’re?

In my little plot of the planet having chronicled college sports for 44 years, the advent of social media in college athletics has proven to be mostly beneficial, but it’s also fraught with challenges.

Schools with the most money and resources employ innovative and imaginative social media departments that are marketing tools stretching beyond reaching just the average fan. The true purpose is extending all the way to recruits.

Ask LSU women’s head basketball coach Kim Mulkey if she could have turned a doormat program into NCAA national champions in just two seasons without steady exposure provided by a tireless social media department.

“We (LSU) have our own social media department and they’re off the charts,” Mulkey told me in mid-May. “They are literally so creative, young, and they’re into what they do.”

What they do is pump out a constant stream of tweets and videos. No doubt recruits have seen Angel Reese dancing in the dressing room or Flau’jae Johnson breaking out in a freestyle rap.

Recruits look at that and think, “That looks like fun. Plus, they’re winning championships and playing for a coach who embraces big personalities. I want to play THERE.”

Mulkey is an old-school soul who understands the value of social media, yet she played for a coach at Louisiana Tech (Leon Barmore) who was all business. He would have nipped at the bud any individual self-promotion by his players.

But having and growing a personal “brand” for a college athlete through social media to attract NIL money is the ultimate recruiting tool.

If you don’t think the rich get richer, there’s no better recruiting exposure than having Reese and LSU gymnast Olivia Dunne featured on the cover of the recent Sports Illustrated “Money Issue.”

The accompanied story pointed out the Tigers have four of the six female athletes ranked in the On3 top 100 in NIL evaluations – Dunne No. 3 at $3.2 million, Reese No. 8 at $1.7 million, Johnson No. 19 at $1.1 million and new basketball signee Hailey Van Lith No. 79 at $550,000.

How will Mulkey this season handle a player (Reese) who now drives a more expensive car (a Mercedes) than she does? Welcome to the new millennium of college coaching.

It’s probable most college coaches approaching or past 60 years old privately abhor social media on several fronts.

Coaches have to motivate players now making bank to play their best.

Coaches often sell their dignity when comes to the “anything goes” approach by using social media in recruiting. Dancing with recruits in videos is simply creepy. Watching LSU head football coach Brian Kelly getting jiggy with recruits is painful. Body parts are falling off.

Coaches assign a staff member to monitor the players’ social media accounts, hoping nothing inappropriate will pop up that will embarrass the player, the program, or the school.

It’s why I can’t imagine past Hall of Fame coaches, from human powder kegs like basketball’s Bobby Knight and football’s Woody Hayes, to basketball’s consummate team fundamentalist John Wooden, could survive in today’s social media tsunami.

If you think Knight could throw a courtside chair far, can you imagine him grabbing one of his player’s cell phones after discovering he made a social media post from the locker room after a game?

That player would be thrilled to tweet using the hashtag #Firstcellphoneorbitingearth.

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Brooks Jr. inspires teammates as he battles ‘medical emergency’

BREAKUP: Greg Brooks Jr., shown breaking up a pass against Florida State, is sidelined indefinitely. (LSU Athletics)

(Editor’s note – early this morning, Greg Brooks Jr.’s family posted a statement on social media acknowledging he had surgery to address a large brain tumor. This story was written following Tuesday evening player interviews when LSU was unable to release that specific information due to federal HIPA regulations related to medical privacy rights.)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

Ask any LSU player who has stood shoulder to shoulder in a defensive huddle with Greg Brooks Jr. or had to try to block him in practice, and the answers echo each other.

“Everybody knows he plays with his heart and he plays hard,” LSU starting center Charles Turner said.

Brooks’ self-assessment from a couple of years ago explains perfectly why he brings his best to every game, practice and off-season workout.

“I never get comfortable where I’m at because anything can be taken at any time, so I really just compete every day,” Brooks, the Tigers’ graduate student starting safety, said in August.

It’s why it was unusual last Thursday when Brooks, a team captain, wasn’t at practice preparing for the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference opener at Mississippi State.

“It was very tough especially not seeing that he was present at practice and having to find out what happened to him,” LSU starting defensive end Sa’vion Jones said.

What exactly has happened to Brooks remains unknown. But when Tigers’ head coach Brian Kelly revealed after last Saturday’s 41-14 win at MSU that Brooks was sidelined indefinitely with “a medical emergency” and the game ball would be presented to Brooks, it seemed drastically more serious than the vertigo he suffered in preseason practice.

“It was tough on the guys and tough on all of us,” Kelly said of explaining to the team about Brooks’ absence.”

The fact Brooks will miss Saturday’s game in Tiger Stadium vs. Arkansas, a team he started 31 times for in three seasons before transferring to LSU last season, resonated from Baton Rouge to Fayetteville.

“I want to start out talking about Greg Brooks,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said as he opened his Monday press conference.

“I’m not positive what is going on with him, but they talked about a medical emergency. Greg was a wonderful kid when he was here and did a great job for us.

“Whatever it may be, I want him and his family and LSU to know that we’re concerned, we’re praying for him, and we hope that he has a speedy recovery. I wish I knew more about it, but I don’t. I do know a medical emergency means there’s something wrong, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and the LSU football team and community.”

Brooks posted the following message on Instagram last Thursday:

“Ppl who overcome darkness in their life typically have a fire inside them that is almost impossible to extinguish. . .the story ain’t over it’s already written God makes no mistakes watch how I break the knob.”

When Brooks met with Baton Rouge-area media after transferring from Arkansas along with another former New Orleans area high school star, Joe Foucha, he spoke about the pride and responsibility of playing for his home state.

Despite Brooks’ West Jefferson High coach Cyril Crutchfield describing Brooks as “never having a player that was that much of a student of the game,” LSU never offered Brooks a scholarship in its signing class of 2019.

He originally committed to Mississippi State before signing with Arkansas, where he had 112 tackles, 5½ tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups and 4 interceptions in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Then, just like his father Greg Sr., who played a year at Michigan before transferring to Southern Miss for his final three seasons, the junior Brooks decided to put his name in the transfer portal in January 2022 knowing then-new LSU coach Kelly was seeking defensive backs.

Last season, Brooks started 13 of 14 games he appeared in and ranked fifth on the team in tackles with 66. In a 21-17 win over Auburn, he returned an interception 30 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the Tigers’ victory.

Through the first two games this season, he already had 8 tackles, 2 pass breakups and a QB hurry. “He had a dream as a kid just to play here his whole life,” Turner said of Brooks, So him coming back and playing for LSU was a big deal.

“He’s a guy that kind of went under the (recruiting) radar and then came back home and tried to do everything the right way. He’s worked his tail off every day he’s been here. He’s a tough, tough kid.”

Jones recalled a running workout this past summer that had a group of Tigers ready to call it a day early.

“Everybody was hunched over, hands on hips and ready to give up,” Jones said. “He (Brooks) walked to the front of us and said `We need to pick this up.’”

And now, he’s inspiring teammates as he battles his “medical emergency.”

“Him going through that makes you realize every day could be your last day,” Turner said. “So, you just have to go out there and attack every day. That’s the motivation he gives us.”

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com















Contact Ron aronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

LSU’s Kelly says Tigers are finding their way

WHIT CAN HIT: LSU true freshman linebacker Whit Weeks (40) had a team-high eight tackles in his first college start last Saturday in the Tigers’ 41-14 win at Mississippi State. (Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

BATON ROUGE – The mantra for head coaches in all sports on any level should be “You never know until you know.”

Translated: Unexpected things occur, such as changing plans or tweaking personnel which results in positive discoveries.

“I haven’t had many teams that just add water and just go,” said LSU’s Brian Kelly after three games of his 33rd season as a college head football coach. “They all require a little bit of changing the formula as the season goes along to get the right mix. We were able to do that (last season). I think we’re finding the formula for this team.”

For instance, the 12th-ranked Tigers (2-1 overall, 1-0 SEC West), who host Arkansas (2-1, 0-0 SEC West) at 6 p.m. Saturday, have discovered a few things in victories the past two weekends over Grambling and Mississippi State after losing the season-opener to Florida State.

The first adjustment was obvious. Kill the Harold Perkins Jr. inside linebacker experiment and move him back outside into open spaces where he can give offensive coordinators nightmares.

Perkins was in full whirling dervish mode in last Saturday’s 41-14 victory at Mississippi State. The final stats showed he had 4 tackles (2 solo) with two tackles for loss, a quarterback sack and a pass breakup.

On consecutive plays in the second quarter, he broke up a first-down Will Rogers pass in the corner of the end zone and then sacked him for a 3-yard loss on second down.

“Early on (vs. FSU), he was playing inside, he was thinking a lot, he was slowing down,” Kelly said.

“He’s got to play with energy. He’s got to play with emotion. That’s how he plays the game the best. He brought that competitive edge. That’s going to put him in a position to get to the quarterback and set the edge and run people down.”

There was also the one-game NCAA suspension meted out to LSU starting defensive tackle Maason Smith for the FSU opener. It forced Kelly to start sophomore Jacobian Guillory with Virginia senior tackle Jordan Jefferson as the backup. Both performed admirably.

So, when the Tigers were missing three injured starters against Mississippi State – inside linebacker Omar Speights, outside “jack” linebacker Ovie Oghoufo and safety Greg Brooks – Kelly didn’t hesitate to start three players in their first year in LSU’s program.

True freshman Whit Weeks, who replaced Speights, had a team-high 8 tackles and a QB hurry. Junior Oregon transfer Bradyn Swinson, filling in for Oghoufo, had 3 tackles, a pass breakup and a QB hurry. In Brooks’ absence, Marshall University graduate student safety Andre Sam had 4 tackles and a pass breakup. True freshman safety Ryan Yaites came off the bench and had 2 tackles.

“What it shows more than anything else,” Kelly said, “and Coach (defensive coordinator Matt) House and I were talking about it, is that we have more than 11 and we need to play them.

“You’ll see now that we can play a lot more at the linebacker position and at the safety position.”


Arkansas (2-1 overall, 0-0 SEC West) at No. 12 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC West), Tiger Stadium, Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPN) 

Last game for the Razorbacks: Lost 38-31 to BYU last Saturday in Fayetteville. Arkansas outgained the Cougars 424-281, had 21 first downs to BYU’s 17 and possessed the ball for 10 more minutes than BYU,  but the Cougars were a perfect 4 for 4 in red zone scoring and scored 38 points on 57 plays. BYU’s front recorded four sacks, four QB hits, and two forced fumbles. The killer for the Hogs was being whistled for 14 penalties for 125 yards. 

Last meeting: In a battle of defenses, LSU won 13-10 last November in Fayetteville. LSU freshman linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. finished with two forced fumbles, four sacks and eight tackles. Arkansas, playing without injured starting QB KJ Jefferson, gained just 249 yards. 

Arkansas head coach: Sam Pittman is 21-18 overall and in four seasons at Arkansas. 


 Early betting line: LSU by 17 

Number of Louisiana natives on Arkansas roster: 1  

Number of Arkansas natives on LSU roster: 0 

Number of transfers on Arkansas roster from 4-year schools: 26 players from 22 schools including 14 players from 9 Power 5 Conference schools


QB K.J. Jefferson 55 of 71 for 629 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception, 80 rushing yards and 1 TDs on 31 carries, RB AJ Green 190 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries, WR Andrew Armstrong (18 catches for 197 yards, 3 TDs), LB Jaheim Thomas 29 tackles, 3½ TFL, 1½ sacks, DB Jayden Johnson 15 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, PK Cam Little 1 of 2 FG, 16 of 16 extra points, P Max Fletcher 14 for 44.1 ypp, 7 FC, 4 inside the 20, 5 +50 yards, KO Cam Little 16 for 63.9 ypk, 12 touchbacks, PR Isaiah Sategna 6 for 154 yards, 1 TD, KR Isaiah Sategna 6 for 112 yards. 


  1. What Arkansas star finished second twice in the Heisman Trophy voting?

         A. “Touchdown” Tom Murphy

         B. “Rapid” Robert Holt

         C. “Walloping” Wally Hall

         D. Darren McFadden

  1. Arkansas’ 2002 last-second win over LSU in Little Rock is known as:

         A. Houston’s Nutty Buddy Classic

         B. The Miracle on Markham

         C. Little Rock Luck

         D. Oinker Go Deep

  1. What record does the LSU-Arkansas 1947 Cotton Bowl hold?

         A. Most snow ever in Cotton Bowl Stadium

         B. Most fumbles in a Cotton Bowl game

         C. Most coffee sold during a Cotton Bowl game

         D. The only scoreless tie in the history of all bowls


  1. C,  2. B, 3. D.

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

About ball, fans of local colleges can refer to The Bard

Noted scribe Bill Shakespeare, who some believe covered Man United in the 16th century, wrote it and many of us hacks since have adapted it.

“Now is the winter of our discontent …”

It’s hardly winter in the 318, but compared to the weeks-long oven we’re finally escaping, it’s not far off. My brother Monty, who turned 61 Sunday and presumably is wiser for it, said it feels like fall now. Next Saturday, it will be.

Owner of three degrees from Louisiana Tech, each in a different discipline, he’s smarter than the average bear, or in this case, older brother. Among his many talents – forestry, computer programming, nursing – he evaded exposure to Shakespeare. I did not. Woe is me? Well, that was first biblical. Back to Bill.

Discontent? Plenty to go around checking on the football on display to date at Grambling, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern State.

Not so much for Centenary, but they’re not officially started yet. The fledgling Gents held their own early in scrimmages against established Division III programs Millsaps and East Texas Baptist, and have toyed with a couple of similar start-up programs in full exhibition games over the past couple Saturdays.

It foreshadows a dramatic uptick along Kings Highway next fall when the games count. It’s already a nice enrollment spike for Centenary, which was the real purpose of restarting football for the first time since before any of us knew where Pearl Harbor was.

“The dogs bark at me as I halt before them …”

It feels that way at Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs won their opener in the final minute over Conference USA visitor FIU. But they lost Saturday night, after a thrilling rally in the closing minutes, when the leaky Tech defense could not stop just departed CUSA pal North Texas.

That was the fourth one-possession loss in Sonny Cumbie’s first 15 games in Ruston. Two of them came in overtime.

Oh, I am fortune’s fool!”

That one’s not just for unkind cuts bumming Bulldogs. It’s as grim as the end of Romeo and Juliet along Chaplin’s Lake on the NSU campus.

An 0-3 start was plausible. FCS teams on average win one of every 20 matchups with FBS foes, and the Demons opened at UL-Lafayette and Tech. They were not embarrassed either time. Not particularly close, but far from hopeless or inept.

The home opener against another ancient rival, Stephen F. Austin, looked to be on even footing. It quickly wasn’t. The Lumberjacks looked Paul Bunyan-esque ripping open a 21-0 lead seven minutes in – not that they did a lot on their own to that point, but the Demons made it easy.

This was not the same competitive level that Northwestern carried through its first two games. Not that Brad Laird’s team didn’t play hard, but it performed poorly, and after the 41-7 rotten egg was laid, he tersely sounded just as he did following last year’s 47-21 thrashing from Grambling at Independence Stadium.

In the best-timed open date imaginable, Laird will be taking roll to see who can be counted on.

“Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, coaches included, and make sure everybody’s doing their job. We’ll make sure those who are going to stay doing their job will be with us moving forward,” he said.

The Demons did find their footing last fall, and went into the last two weeks playing for at least a share of the Southland Conference title and a playoff berth. Didn’t get either, but did get hope for 2023. Current status, though:

“Have no delight to pass away the time, unless to spy my shadow in the sun …”

Over at Grambling, throw out the understandable massacre in the visit to pick up $780,000 and showcase the World Famed Tiger Marching Band at LSU. An opening loss against Howard, and Saturday’s less than impressive cruise by designated win Florida Memorial, left Hue Jackson pondering the G-Men’s defense.

“I am determined to prove a villain…”

Grambling gave up 445 yards of offense, 233 rushing, and 22 points to the NAIA’s Lions of Florida Memorial — a program that resumed football after a 64-year hiatus in 2021, going 6-21 since.

“Dive, thoughts, down to my soul …”

The Tigers start Southwestern Athletic Conference play this Saturday. Good news? It’s at home in Eddie Robinson Memorial Stadium. Better? It’s against Texas Southern, 0-3 after a 59-7 beatdown at Rice.

If the G-Men don’t get that one, then Jackson couldn’t be blamed for taking quite a few sips of his own branded tequila, Grand Leyenda – he’s a partner and Chief Strategic Officer. “The tequila takes on golden hue … “ is really, truly a promotional line from the brand’s website. I kid you not.

A parting piece of insight from The Bard, for Bulldogs, Demons and Tigers: 

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”

September games don’t define a season. Hopefully. 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Will the real LSU football team stand up today in Starkville?

CLEAN POCKET:  LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) had plenty of time to throw while tossing five first-half TD passes last Saturday against Grambling. (Journal photo by PETER FOREST)

By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Head coaches like to say no two seasons are alike, that his year’s team identity is or will be different than last year’s.

That might be eventually true for 14th-ranked LSU, yet the 2023 Tigers find themselves in the same position as the 2022 Tigers were last year.

A disappointing season-opening loss to Florida State, followed by steamrolling an extremely overmatched SWAC team to regain a bit of positivity, yet still not having a true picture of who they really are as SEC play begins.

Last season in Tiger Stadium, LSU spotted Mississippi State a 13-0 late in the second quarter before outscoring MSU 31-3 the rest of the way in a 31-16 SEC opener. It jumpstarted a stretch in which the Tigers won eight of their next nine games including five of six in the SEC to clinch the league’s West Division title.

There’s hope that LSU (1-1) can follow the path today starting here in Davis-Wade Stadium against the Bulldogs (2-0) in an 11 a.m. SEC lid-lifter for both teams.

“We made a great deal of improvement in just the way we think,” LSU second-year head coach Brian Kelly said of the Tigers’ 72-10 beatdown of Southern last Saturday following a 45-24 Sept. 3 loss to Florida State. “To me, the most important thing was thinking the right way about how to play for four quarters.

“Now we got to take that against an SEC opponent in terms of the technical, the tactical. All of those things now are going to be on display. When you miss a tackle in space (against an SEC opponent) it’s probably going to go for a touchdown, not a 35-yard run. That’s the next challenge for us as we go into SEC play.”

Certainly, the Tigers’ offense is far more advanced than it was last year at this time when Jayden Daniels was still in the infant stages as LSU’s starting quarterback. Daniels didn’t get comfortable with his receivers and the Tigers’ playcallers didn’t get a feel for Daniels until halfway in the season.

Daniels, who sat out the second half of last Saturday’s blowout of Grambling, is averaging 354.8 yards total offense with 6 TDs (all passes). It’s 125 more yards than he averaged a year ago after two games.

While he’s operating the offense smoother than last season – as it should be for the Arizona State transfer making his 17th LSU start – the Tigers’ rushing attack needs to show a leap of improvement against a quality Mississippi State defense.

LSU overwhelmed Grambling with 302 rushing yards on 48 carries and five TDs. Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs, healed from a hamstring injury, ran for 115 yards and a TD in his Tigers’ debut. Freshman Kaleb Jackson added 62 yards and 2 TDs.

“We’ve got a lot of backs,” said Kelly, who welcomes back senior John Emery Jr. to the rotation after he missed the first two games presumably because of academics. “We’re going to go with the guy that is feeling it and seeing it and ripping off some big plays.

“There’s going to be times they’re (MSU’s defense) going to stunt, have line movements and make it difficult to run. We’ve got to be patient with our running game. We just can’t abandon the running game.”

Zach Arnett, MSU’s defensive coordinator last season, was named the Bulldogs’ head coach after Mike Leach died unexpectedly early last December.

While Arnett has made a drastic change from Leach’s Air Raid offense to a conventional balanced run/pass attack, State’s defense still has a heavy Arnett influence.

Dating back to last season, Mississippi State has recorded a takeaway in seven straight games. State had four takeaways on the first four possessions against Arizona in last Saturday’s 31-24 overtime win in Starkville. Last season, the Bulldogs earned a takeaway in 12 of their 13 games.

State’s defense revolves around linebackers Jett Johnson and Nathaniel Watson. Through two games, the duo has already combined for 35 tackles, 3½ sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

“Those guys have seen a lot of football,” Arnett said. “When there are times we shift stress in our defensive game plan, we give them harder assignments than maybe some of our other guys. We know they have played a lot of football and they can handle that burden.”

No one has been affected more by Arnett’s move to a new offense than MSU senior quarterback Will Rogers.

In his 32 starts under Leach, Rogers averaged 34.7 pass completions and 49 pass attempts per game. Under Arnett in two starts, he’s averaged 14.5 completions and 23 attempts.

Kelly believes Rogers will eventually thrive in the new offense.

“They want to run the football, that’s the change in their offensive structure,” Kelly said, “but it’s set up to use play action to take (passing) shots downfield. “I think it’s really going to suit him (Rogers). He’s extremely accurate. He’s smart. He takes care of the football.” 


1: Pass reception needed by MSU running back Jo’Quavious Marks to become the school’s all-time reception leader. He currently has 199 career catches. 

4: First-year tight ends for the Tigers will all play vs. MSU because starting Tigers’ TE Mason Taylor is questionable with an injury. 

9: LSU offensive players this season have scored at least one TD 

13: Straight wins for LSU when it rushes for 200 yards or more 

20: Consecutive games for LSU receiver Malik Nabers with at least one reception

Contact Ron at ronhigginsmedia@gmail.com

Searching for solutions after the demise of a treasured (by many) tradition

NATCHITOCHES – The answer to the problem is Bigfoot.

Or maybe, it’s a totem pole. Or just a very big log, inscribed with school logos.

But that’s not really the solution in the “Chief Caddo” controversy swirling around the Northwestern State-Stephen F. Austin football rivalry to be renewed this evening at Turpin Stadium.

The problem, for shocked supporters including a horde of angry former Northwestern State players and alumni, is two-fold: 1) sorting through the why’s and who’s behind the sudden Wednesday announcement of the cancellation of the 62-year-old trophy tradition, and 2) what now?

The 7-foot-6, 320-pound wooden Indian statue, claimed by the winner of each football matchup between the schools, stands somewhere in storage on the SFA campus in Nacogdoches, its future unknown. Not long ago it was proudly displayed in the Lumberjacks’ athletic fieldhouse, and was relocated to their basketball arena when Northwestern visited.

But now it’s statue-non grata. Both university presidents issued a statement Wednesday formally shelving the “Chief” because of sensitivity to understandable concerns from some Native Americans, and outlining a vague path about “ongoing discussions about how best to commemorate this nearly century-old rivalry.”

What was left unsaid was exactly when the decision was reached, who was consulted to make it (obviously not players, coaches and alumni who were invested in the tradition for decades, from the widespread firestorm on social media and over coffee or cocktails), and any timeline to move forward with purpose.

When and who was involved is at best cryptic. It didn’t happen when Dr. Chris Maggio was NSU’s president, despite a polite but firm November 2020 letter of complaint to both schools requesting the end of the trophy exchange – not the tradition — from the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma chairwoman Tamara M. French.  It didn’t happen after an April 2021 resolution passed by the NSU Student Government Association later endorsed by the Faculty Senate.

Then the axe was grinding. After many years of shreds of occasional complaints to officials at NSU and SFA, in the aftermath of the social upheaval movement in the summer of 2020, the letter from French was followed a few months later by the SGA and Faculty Senate resolutions – not university policy, just their recommendations, but worthy of note.

Maggio surprisingly retired late that spring, and current NSU president Dr. Marcus Jones took over Nov. 8, 2021. At some point after that, apparently in conjunction with leadership across Toledo Bend, a decision was made. Unpopular, to be sure. But only a small circle of people knew, and whoever did used the ostrich approach. 

It wasn’t announced. Not when the Demons’ 2023 schedule was released with SFA on it. Not by SFA, whose football coach, Colby Carthel, made it clear Thursday what he thinks of the situation.

“There were rumors they (NSU) were going to turn him into wood chips or whatever for lawn landscaping, but that wasn’t going to happen on our watch,” he told Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel reporter Nathan Hague. “So he is secured out of public sight and will not be played for again, unfortunately for a lot of folks.”

All summer long, NSU fans inquired about the presumed upcoming “Battle for Chief Caddo” – after all, it was a fixture for decades — but got no answers. Finally with game day near, a five-sentence statement from the presidents confirmed the Chief was DOA.

“The main issue ex-players have with this decision is the fact it feels like it was done in the dark,” said a Facebook post by former NSU receiver and SFA assistant coach David Groman, a leader in the “Demon Brothers” support group of former players.

“It would have been nice, as an ex-NSU player and an ex-SFA coach, to be able to let the Caddo Nation know the honor and respect we had for the Chief. To let them know we never recognized this as a ‘cigar store Indian.’

“We would have heard from them the objections they have with the representation of the Chief. Maybe we could have come to an agreement to change … him, a better visual representation. Maybe not,” Groman wrote Thursday. “Maybe they could have heard the respect in our voices. Maybe not.

“I can say it was an honor to fight for Chief Caddo, but I can not say I was honoring Caddo Nation if they didn’t feel the same.”

Why this justifiable, albeit painful move wasn’t made public just after the 2023 schedule was released is puzzling and disappointing. That would have allowed months for a new trophy to be developed, one that did the same things the Chief Caddo trophy was created to do – recognize the historic relationship between the two oldest communities in their respective states, and the Native American influence that made their existence possible.

Saturday’s game could have been a celebration of a new tradition. Now the teams don’t meet until 2025. That leaves plenty of time for deliberation – and hopefully this time, collaboration past a small circle. Build some buy-in. Develop a wonderful new tradition. Fold in service activities by both schools to involve and benefit nearby Native Americans. Add some educational components. And a nice, new prize – hopefully one that is still the biggest in all the sports world. Why change that?

The “antiquated” Chief, thought to be reasonably historically accurate when Logansport wood carver Harold Green developed him in 1960-61, was due for an upgrade. Our society has made much progress since then. There are no longer two water fountains or segregated schools. Women and minorities have greatly enhanced standing in today’s America. It’s not perfect. It never will be, but it can always be better. Maybe over the long haul, this change helps, after it understandably inflamed angry emotions from blindsided Demons and Lumberjacks this week.

There’s one more twist. The Chief probably isn’t SFA’s to keep. Former Demons center Tyler Rapp points out the 2019 Lumberjacks had to forfeit nine games, including their 32-20 NSU win, because of rampant academic compliance shortcomings. SFA had to remove basketball conference championship banners, NCAA Tournament marks and other tokens of competitive success from that period.

Even the SFA record book cites results were vacated by the NCAA Committee on Infractions. So the Chief might have one more journey back to Louisiana, if justice prevails – if somebody will, as the NSU fight song ends, “fight for dear ole Demon land.” 

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com

Road-tested Demons welcome Lumberjacks back to Turpin

MOVE THE CHAINS:  Demons’ running back Kolbe Burrell signals ‘first down’ after a good gain last Saturday at Louisiana Tech. (Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State Athletics)


NATCHITOCHES – For 35 seasons from 1984-2019, Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin football fans could mark their calendars for a November date with each other with many of those games falling in the high-stakes category.

Nearly four years since they last met, the Demons will host the Lumberjacks this evening at 6 o’clock in NSU’s home opener, marking the earliest meeting between the teams since a 27-21 Northwestern State victory on Sept. 15, 1979. The game will air on ESPN+ with Patrick Netherton (play-by-play), three-time NSU All-American linebacker Gary Reasons (analyst) and Tyler Moody (sideline reporter) calling the action.

“For so long, that game was the last game of the season and usually there were some implications, whether it was conference titles or playoff opportunities,” sixth-year head coach and former NSU quarterback Brad Laird said. “This team will not need any more motivation to play their first home game, but it’s something special to bring back a team you had that rivalry with and be able to play them again.”

Northwestern (0-2) and Stephen F. Austin (1-1) have not met since a 32-20 Lumberjacks’ win on Nov. 21, 2019, in the final Southland Conference matchup between the teams. SFA later forfeited the contest due to NCAA academic eligibility violations.

The rivalry resumes for the Demons’ home opener – which comes in Week 3 or later for the third straight season.

“It’s an opportunity – every day is an opportunity,” said senior linebacker Jaeden “Buck” Ward, Northwestern’s leading tackler. “What’s special is we get to play in front of our home crowd, play on the field we practice on every day. You finally get that moment to shine in front of your home fans.”

Like all but three players on the NSU roster – offensive lineman Jordan Cooper, linebacker Jared Pedraza and punter Scotty Roblow – Ward was not in Natchitoches for the most recent meeting with the Lumberjacks.

However, one of the players who somewhat paved a trail for Ward to assume his current starting position was.

Ward is the third different former Trinity Valley Community College linebacker to man a starting spot on the NSU defense since 2018 – following Blake Stephenson and Ward’s former NSU teammate Race Moser.

“One, that’s a good program,” Laird said of Trinity Valley. “That started with (former Trinity Valley head coach and NSU offensive coordinator) coach (Brad) Smiley and the success they had and has continued through the years. You know what you get from a player who comes from Trinity Valley – he works hard and will be a great teammate. Those two things, Buck has done during his time at Northwestern.”

Ward worked his way back from an early-season knee injury in 2022 to become a consistent contributor down the stretch of this past season.

As the Demons enter Week 3 of the 2023 season, they are searching for that type of consistency on both sides of the ball.

“Consistency was our No. 1 key to victory (at Louisiana Tech),” Laird said. “We continue to strive for it in all three phases in order for our team to take that next step.”

The good news for Laird and the Demons is they get to do so at home after playing the first two weeks of the season on the road.

That fact alone has upped the ante for the Demon players this week.

“We’re all excited, especially not to have to get on a bus and travel,” said senior wide receiver Jaren Mitchell, who set his NSU career highs in receptions (4) and receiving yards (60) at Louisiana Tech this past week.

“There’s nothing like playing in front of our home crowd. When we’re able to prepare and be in our own environment, it’s an edge we’ll have in our favor.”

NSU welcomes in an SFA team that has split its first two games – a 48-30 loss at Troy on Sept. 2 and a 38-10 win against Alcorn in Nacogdoches last Saturday.

The game will air on ESPN+ with Patrick Netherton (play-by-play), three-time NSU All-American linebacker Gary Reasons (analyst) and Tyler Moody (sideline reporter) calling the action.

Bulldogs take aim at a 3-1 start at home tonight against UNT

BOUND FOR SIX:  Keith Willis Jr. scored on runs of 68 and 65 yards while posting 188 rushing yards for Louisiana Tech in last week’s win over Northwestern State. (Photo by JOSH MCDANIEL, Louisiana Tech Athletics)

By MALCOLM BUTLER, Lincoln Parish Journal 

RUSTON — Louisiana Tech looks to remain perfect at home when the Bulldogs host winless North Texas today at 6 p.m. at Joe Aillet Stadium as part of the Red Out. 

Tech (2-1) plays for the third time in four weekends at home, coming off a 51-21 win over Northwestern State last Saturday. 

North Texas (0-2), which left Conference USA in the offseason to move over to the American Athletic Conference,  has lost 58-21 to Cal and 46-39 at FIU. 

A Tech win tonight matches the win total for the Bulldogs in each of the past two seasons, both three-win campaigns. 

The Bulldogs have two non-conference games remaining (tonight, and at Nebraska next Saturday) before resuming Conference USA action in early October at UTEP. 

“The opportunity to play an opponent like North Texas at home is exciting, and we have to try and continue to build on the momentum that we had last week,” said second-year head coach Sonny Cumbie, whose team pushed away at the end of the first half and took control a week ago. “We want to be a consistent team and that is what we are striving for is improvement and consistency. 

“We are not trying to keep our eyes on the win-loss record or the future or who we are playing and what is coming up next. It is about our effort and the ability to get better. Our focus has been to improve every single day.” 

The Bulldogs have shown the ability to pass to win (over 300 yards vs. FIU) and the ability to run the football to win (over 300 yards vs. Northwestern State). And North Texas (0-2) has struggled at times to stop both in losses to Cal and FIU. 

First-year Mean Green head coach Eric Morris has been impressed with what he has seen on film from Tech, especially a Bulldog defense that has allowed its fewest total yards through the first three games in more than two decades. The Bulldogs also rank 10th nationally in passes defended through three games. 

“I think they are a lot better on defense this year as opposed to last year,” said Morris. “I am a history guy. And looking at this in the course of history, we are 1-4 against them in the last five games. This is a team that has every bit of our attention. I have played against their defensive coordinator (Scott Power) before when he was at Stephen F. Austin, and he does a phenomenal job. I think they have some really good players on the back end. 

“On the offensive end they have been able to establish a running game and be pretty efficient. I think they are explosive at wide out. They have experience on the offensive line. Anytime you go to Ruston … it’s always been a challenging place to play. We will have our hands full.” 

The Bulldogs will try to contain two North Texas quarterbacks in former ULM starter Chandler Rogers and Stone Earle, who have both seen significant playing time in both games this year. Earle has thrown four interceptions in just 39 pass attempts while Rogers is more of a duel threat QB. 

“It is a challenge,” said Cumbie. “They are both good players. They have the ability to extend plays, probably Chandler a little bit more than Stone. We have to have an idea of what they are trying to do in their quarterback run game. That element of it will be there. With Stone it will be more of a scramble mode. 

“They have some really talented receivers and their running backs had some success against us last year. Their receivers are very fast so our corners and secondary will have our hands full. Whoever they play at quarterback we will have a good plan for it and will be prepared for both.” 

The contest can be heard on the LA Tech Sports Network on 107.5 FM and the LA Tech Athletics app with Malcolm Butler (pxp), Teddy Allen (analyst) and Jerry Byrd (sideline) providing the call of the game.  It will also be on ESPN+. 

Tech leads the all-time series against North Texas 13-8, including a 6-3 mark in Ruston. However, the Mean Green won 47-27 in Denton in last season’s meeting.

Grambling gets other end of the extreme in home debut

TRIPLE DIGITS: Grambling running back Chance Williams rushed for 106 yards on seven carries last weekend at LSU. (Journal photo by PETER FOREST)

By T. SCOTT BOATRIGHT, Lincoln Parish Journal

GRAMBLING — In football terms, it’s called a trap game — a contest in which one team faces an opponent generally deemed to be easy to defeat. 

But after the program’s first-ever encounter with LSU last week, Grambling State University head coach Hue Jackson isn’t buying into that line of thinking as his G-Men prepare to play host to NAIA member Florida Memorial at 2 p.m. today in Eddie G. Robinson Stadium on the GSU campus.

Florida Memorial, based in Miami, revived its football program in 2021 after a 64-year hiatus.

Since returning to the football field in 2021, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics program has gone 6-20, and stands at 1-1 this season after opening with a 50-47 loss to Bluefield (Virginia) University before defeating Edwin Waters College 38-21 on Sept. 2.

Jackson said he’s not about to take the smaller school program lightly.

“They are another football team on our schedule,” Jackson said. “They can score. They’ve demonstrated that. They can play defense. They’re going to put 11 out there and we’re going to put 11 out there.

“Anytime you’re playing against anyone on a field, anything can happen. They’re a team that can make plays all over the field and we’ve got to do everything we can to get them stopped.”

Grambling (1-1) is coming off a 72-10 loss at LSU after opening the season with a 35-31 defeat by Hampton in the Brick City Classic in New Jersey.

 Jackson feels good about his G-Men heading into today’s game. 

“Obviously we didn’t have the result I wanted but I thought our guys battled extremely hard and played as well as we could,” Jackson said about the game at LSU. “It was a great experience for our football team to go into Death Valley and compete. We see where we need to get better, we see where we need to grow as a football team. That was obvious and we’re looking forward to our next contest.”

Jackson said his team’s performance against LSU early in that contest is something he hopes his Tigers will build on.

“I think we showed we can compete,” Jackson said. “We feel like we can compete with anybody. We’ve just got to sustain it for more than one quarter. Games are four quarters, so we’ve got to continue to grow that way, and I think we will.”

And despite the lopsided score, Jackson said his team learned some things from playing against LSU.

“It shows us where we are,” Jackson said. “Obviously there are some things we know we have to grow from after playing that game, but at the same time there was a point in that game where we felt like, ‘Hey, we’re competing at a very high level and I think our players know that we left a lot out there.’

“That will help us. There will be some great lessons from the LSU game that will help us through the season.”

Junior Myles Crawley, a transfer from Alabama State, will be making his third start at quarterback for Grambling.

Crawley connected on 14-of-25 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown against LSU while also being intercepted. On the season, Crawley has completed 39-of-63 passes (62 percent) for 450 yards and three touchdowns with that lone turnover against LSU. 

“He’s done a good job of taking care of the football,” Jackson said of Crawley’s play so far. “Even though there was a turnover (against LSU), that was a dropped pass. He’s done a really good job of spreading the ball around and getting everybody involved. I think that’s really important on the back half of this as we head toward our conference schedule because we’re going to need everybody on our offense to play well if we want to do what we intend to do.”

Sophomore running back Chance Williams was another bright spot against LSU, rushing for 106 yards on only seven carries.

“I think he did extremely well,” Jackson said about Williams. “But me knowing Chance, I think he’s going to thank our offensive line for blocking really well downfield.

“He’s a really talented player in our system. He’s the first running back I visited when I became head coach here. And I knew he was going to be special. I think we’re just starting to see the best of Chance.”

On the season, Williams has averaged 10.2 yards per carry, rushing for 143 yards and one touchdown on 14 attempts.

One thing Jackson said he knows his team has to clean up is a plague of penalties.

The G-Men have been flagged 22 times for 183 lost yards in their two games so far this season.

“I think it’s a big factor, absolutely.” Jackson said about the penalties called against his team. “I think our football discipline is something we’ve talked about as a team.

“We had nine penalties the first game, and then 13 (against LSU), and that’s something we’ve talked about as a team, knowing we have to get better at this week.”

Jackson said he isn’t concerned about his team’s 0-2 start. His only focus is today’s game against Florida Memorial.

“I don’t look at anything as a ‘must win.’ We want to win them all, if we can, right? So we’re looking forward to playing, and playing at home,” Jackson said. “I think that’s the most important thing for our fans.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re in the process with our fans, our administration, our families and everyone that supports us gets to experience it, so let’s see if we can get a win at home.”

Contact Scott at tscottboatright@gmail.com

Andy Russo’s ‘charmed life’ took off at a seafood buffet in El Paso

It is often a thin line between where life could take you and where life does take you. One phone call, one decision, one accidental meeting can completely change the course of your life.

Andy Russo was a teacher at Maine East High School and freshman basketball coach in the Chicago area and was living, as he describes it now, “a charmed life.” He had every reason to keep living that life but for some reason, fate stepped in his way.

Why would he leave a dying mother and a job he loved to go to UTEP as a graduate assistant basketball coach for $100 a month? But he did.

Why would he go to Panola Junior College, a place he could have never found on a map, to become a head coach?

Why would he have his eyes on a job at Centenary, only to suddenly find out that he needed to apply for the head basketball coach at Louisiana Tech instead?

All of that by the time he was 30 years old.

Five years later, he was the young basketball coach who every major school with a vacancy was wanting after taking the Bulldogs to the greatest post-season success it has ever had before or since.

And then he was gone.

But even though it’s been four decades since Russo led the Bulldogs to those unprecedented heights, he never really left Ruston.

Yes, he went to the University of Washington for four years, then coached in Italy and returned to coach at two colleges in Florida for 12 years.

Through all of those experiences, hardly a day goes by when he doesn’t think about his time at Louisiana Tech. Tonight, Russo will be inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame in a pretty shining example of “what took you so long?”

“Winning is great and all of that, but it’s not necessarily the wins and losses you remember,” Russo says. “It’s the experiences you have in life with the people you get to know, whether it’s players, coaches or community. That’s what I think about.”

Maybe it’s because basketball success hasn’t come easy to Tech lately – the Bulldogs haven’t won a conference title since 1991 and haven’t won a NCAA tournament game since 1989 – but anybody who was around to see what Russo’s teams accomplished in his six years can attest to how special that time was.

After four solid years (67 wins), the Bulldogs burst on the scene in 1983-84 with a 26-7 team that won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in school history, and then went to the Sweet 16 the next year after being ranked in the Top 10 for most of the season.

All because he took a chance.

Ten years before he was at the top, he was a freshman coach and “figured it was going to be a long time before I got a head coaching job.”

Hello, fate.

Russo’s sister married an El Paso native, so he took a trip to visit her. They were at a country club one night when in walked Don Haskins, legendary coach at Texas-El Paso, for the Friday night seafood buffet. The father-in-law of Russo’s sister knew Haskins and introduced him.

“I’d really like to come down and coach,” Russo told Haskins, who offered him the graduate assistant job on the spot.

And a few months later, he made the move, even as his mother was being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “That was very, very sad,” Russo said.

“The thing that really turned it around for me was working with Don Haskins,” he said. “I learned more from him in five minutes than I knew about basketball up until that time.”

Still, it makes you wonder where life would have taken Russo had Haskins not been such a fan of the Friday night seafood buffet.

After a year at UTEP and three more at Panola JC, he set his sights on the Centenary job when a coaching friend asked Russo if he had applied for the Tech opening. “Is that a good job?” Russo asked.

A few more calls from coaching friends who knew somebody who knew somebody and Russo was one of three finalists. The other two candidates? The non-household names of SMU assistant Danny Underwood and Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-L) assistant Dave Farrar.

“You always look back on decisions you make,” Russo says. “Five minutes after I took the Washington job, Arkansas called. Going to Washington wasn’t a mistake, but staying there was. I don’t know … had I not taken the Washington job, I wouldn’t have had the chance to coach in Italy. You make decisions for the right seasons and you do the best you can.”

These days Russo, the youngest-ever-looking 75-year-old ever, runs basketball camps in Boca Raton, Fla., and even does a little refereeing as well. Basketball is still in his blood, so many stops away from once being a freshman coach who wondered if he’d ever be a head coach.

And when he thinks about his time at Louisiana Tech, it’s not about going to a Sweet 16 or being ranked among the nation’s best.

“I get a warm feeling about the relationships I had there,” he says. “I value that, and I probably never knew that until I moved to Italy (to coach for two years). Even with the success we had, life is all about relationships.” 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com

Former Shreveporter Jack Brittain Jr. set for Saturday recognition at NSU home opener

WORTHY RECIPIENT:  Jack “Britt” Brittain Jr. was pleasantly shocked when presented the LSWA’s 2017 Mac Russo Award by the prior year’s winner, Teddy Allen. Brittain will be honored posthumously Saturday at Northwestern State.


NATCHITOCHES – One of Northwestern State’s and Natchitoches’ biggest advocates, former Shreveport resident Jack O. “Britt” Brittain Jr., is being posthumously honored Saturday evening at the Demons’ home football opener at Turpin Stadium.

Brittain, who died July 11 after a brief illness at age 67, was a four-year letterwinner for the Demons from 1974-78. For his service to the university and its athletic program, he is being recognized as the first Exchange Bank and Trust “Demon Great of the Game” for the 2023 season.

He played defensive back, fullback and wide receiver, getting on the field as a true freshman and playing in the historic 1974 NSU-Grambling game. Brittain played receiver in his final three seasons, catching passes from Bobby Hebert, Eric Barkley and Stan Powell while helping block for record-shattering running back Joe Delaney in coach A.L Williams’ wide-open offenses.

Following his graduation from NSU, Brittain earned his law degree at LSU in 1982 and became a highly-effective and respected cog in local and state politics. He resided in Shreveport while representing U.S. Senators J. Bennett Johnston and John Breaux in the 1980s. He later practiced law in Natchitoches.

A tireless promoter of his hometown and of his alma mater, Brittain also supported numerous Northwestern endeavors both athletically and university-related.

His legal and political expertise allowed him to dispense advice to university administration at all levels while he gave his time and money to a plethora of fund-raisers and charitable acts, both connected to the university and for worthy causes throughout northwest Louisiana.

Brittain, the colorful sideline reporter for the Demon Sports Network radio broadcasts from 1997-2014, was awarded the 2013 N-Club Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Award. Brittain’s volunteer involvement and legal work with the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, which holds its annual convention in Natchitoches each summer, earned him lifetime membership and the organization’s Mac Russo Award, which is given to an individual who “contributes to the progress and the ideals of the LSWA,” in 2017. 

He was a catalyst in celebrating Delaney’s memory and heroism. Brittain played a pivotal role in the filming of the ESPN short film, “Delaney,” which premiered in 2015 with a screening at the Robinson Film Center in Shreveport. Brittain also represented NSU at various Kansas City Chiefs functions honoring Delaney, who died 40 years ago while trying to rescue three drowning children in Monroe.

Following his passing, the Jack Brittain Junior Memorial Scholarship, benefitting a Northwestern State female student-athlete, was established in his honor. The scholarship already has reached the endowed mark and is still receiving donations. For information on how to donate, visit https://fundraise.givesmart.com/vf/nsujack.

Brittain was the proud son of former Louisiana Tech running back Jack O. Brittain Sr., who played for the Bulldogs shortly after World War II and became a prominent attorney and Democratic Party activist in the state.

End of an era:  No more ‘Chief Caddo’ for NSU-SFA football

TRADITION HALTED:  There will be no more postgame celebrations like this 2007 scene featuring the “Chief Caddo” trophy following football contests between Northwestern and Stephen F. Austin. (Photo courtesy Northwestern State Athletics)

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

NATCHITOCHES – When the football teams from Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin meet for the first time in four seasons Saturday evening at Turpin Stadium, they’ll play without the largest trophy in sports at stake, lacking the regional and national fanfare accompanying the rivalry for six decades.

Officials from both universities decided to retire a wooden statue known as “Chief Caddo” which has gone to the winner of the NSU-SFA football game since 1961. At 7-foot-6, 320 pounds, the “Chief” was the biggest physical prize globally in sports, not just college football.

They said in an announcement late Wednesday afternoon a decision on “how best to commemorate the rivalry” will be determined by a combination of students, athletic staff and the two university presidents.

For much of the historic “Chief Caddo” series, the schools were in the same conference, first the Gulf Star (1983-86) and then the Southland (1987-2021), and during that time the NSU-SFA football game concluded the regular season schedule just before Thanksgiving each year.

As the “Battle for Chief Caddo” was staged on the same weekend as other storied college football rivalries, such as Ohio State-Michigan, Harvard-Yale and other time-honored series, it garnered coverage from national media and was nearly uniformly featured on ESPN’s popular GameDay Saturday morning show.

Northwestern president Dr. Marcus Jones and Stephen F. Austin interim president Gina Oglesbee issued a brief joint statement announcing the decision Wednesday afternoon through their respective athletic media relations offices. Subsequent rampant posters on social media decried the move, although others offered differing perspectives.

The statue and the name “Chief Caddo” have been retired since the last football meeting in 2019, the schools’ leaders said, although there was no public acknowledgement of that decision until Wednesday’s statement. A letter dated November 16, 2020 from Tamara M. Francis, chairman of The Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, and an April 19, 2021 NSU Student Government Association resolution both requested the tradition be discontinued. It was unclear when exactly the decision was reached.

Stephen F. Austin won the 2019 meeting in Natchitoches, and therefore retained the trophy until the next matchup, which was expected to be the next November until the COVID-19 pandemic struck and few colleges – SFA yes, NSU no – played football that fall. The following spring, SFA withdrew from the Southland Conference to join the Western Athletic Conference, and the rivalry game was off the schedule.

Former NSU athletic director Greg Burke and his SFA counterpart, Ryan Ivey, later agreed to resume the series with a 2023 game in Natchitoches and a 2025 meeting in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Officials at SFA last week told Chris Mycoskie of ESPN+ that the statue is no longer on display and said it is in storage. The future of the statue is uncertain.

A combination of factors led to the statue being retired, including sensitivity to the region’s Native American population, along with the NCAA’s emphasis on eliminating mascots and traditions which some may consider demeaning. The issue quietly drew serious consideration just over a decade ago, during the administration of NSU’s longest-serving president, Dr. Randy Webb.

A couple of nearby universities, Arkansas State and UL Monroe, jettisoned Indian mascots during that time. Prominent professional sports franchises in the NFL (the former Washington Redskins) and Major League Baseball (formerly the Cleveland Indians) have adopted new brands. However, other pro teams (Atlanta Braves) and colleges (Florida State Seminoles) have not.

In 1960, the “Chief Caddo”  tradition  egan when the friendly rivals agreed to commission a statue of a mythical Native American chief whose tribe was settled in the locations that later became the English-speaking communities of Natchitoches and Nacogdoches, where Northwestern and Stephen F. Austin are located. They are about 100 miles apart, in a region now divided by Toledo Bend, but then by the Sabine River, relatively equidistant from each community.

The purpose was to pay tribute to the Native Americans who not only first settled the region, but provided safety for the early white settlers in the area. Historians say that if not for the Caddo tribe, the Spanish and French colonists who came to the region would not have survived onslaughts of Apache and Commanche warriors from the west and the Natchez from the east. Also, French and Spanish writers of the era reported Caddo chiefs were master diplomats who made it possible for the two European colonists to live as neighbors while their mother nations were at war against each other.

The statement issued by the presidents late Wednesday afternoon:

“As the Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin football teams prepare to face off this Saturday, they do so with a focus on embracing our rich history and shared heritage while looking forward to the future.

“Following the teams’ most recent meeting in the 2019 season finale, the antiquated wooden statue known as ‘Chief Caddo,’ which was awarded to the winner of the NSU-SFA football game since 1961, was retired. 

“The universities are engaged in ongoing discussions about how best to commemorate this nearly century-old rivalry, which began in 1924. Student representatives, athletics staff and presidents of both institutions will play pivotal roles in shaping this commemoration. 

“The teams are scheduled to complete a two-year, home-and-home contract with a 2025 game at Stephen F. Austin.  

“Northwestern State President Dr. Marcus Jones and Stephen F. Austin Interim President Gina Oglesbee made the joint announcement.”

Contact Doug at sbjdoug@gmail.com