Struggling rivals seek redemption in Bayou Classic
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
With their hopes of a Southwestern Athletic Conference title gone for both Grambling and Southern, Saturday's nationally televised Bayou Classic in the Superdome gives both teams a chance to finish disappointing seasons in a big-game environment.
The Tigers (1-9) and Jaguars (3-7) enter the game with the worst combined record in the event's 39-year history.
They're wrapping up a season that saw the Jaguars fire their coach after only two games, while Tigers coach Doug Williams has learned that even his status as a playing legend and successful coach in his previous stint on the job doesn't buy much patience from unhappy fans.
''This has been a tough year, one that nobody at Grambling is used to,'' Williams said. ''These are the kind of years that blindside you. A lot of our fans are restless. Well, they forget that I'm an alumnus and I don't like it either.''
At Southern, interim coach Dawson Odoms knows that the ''interim'' part of his title will be removed after the game, but he isn't sure if the ''coach'' part will be gone as well.
Athletic director William Broussard has said he will make a decision on whether to retain Odoms, who was the defensive coordinator until the firing of Stump Mitchell, or begin the search process for someone else.
''Who wouldn't want to be the coach here?'' asked Odoms. ''This is a great place.
''But whatever decision they make, I'm OK with it.''
Certainly Odoms' status would have been improved with a little luck in the Jaguars' last two games, one-point losses to Alabama A&M and Alabama State.
The first game went to overtime and the second ended with an unsuccessful two-point try by the Jaguars after a late touchdown.
But late disappointments and coaching intrigue aside, this is a chance for two archrivals to salvage something from the wreckage of their seasons in what is still the showcase game for the two schools.
A crowd of more than 40,000 is expected in the Superdome and the game will be nationally televised on NBC, although that television contract is expiring after this season.
And for Southern, it's an opportunity to end a four-game losing streak in its meetings with Grambling, a skid that has seen the Tigers regain the series lead, 20-18.
''I haven't beaten Grambling since I've been here,'' said Dray Joseph, Southern's junior quarterback. ''Our record's better than theirs, and our record's not that good.
''So if we lose to those guys, it'd be tough.''