Monday, November 24, 2008

Bayou Classic 2007

BAYOU CLASSIC 2007: Robinson said emotional goodbye a decade ago
November 21, 2007

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — The 1997 Bayou Classic won't be remembered as much of a game, with Southern breezing to a 30-7 victory.

Grambling State, in fact, managed just eight first downs, and was one-of-10 on third down. Southern held GSU to a season-low 123 yards of total offense.

Yet the 23rd edition of this legendary rivalry game — a blowout before 64,500 at the Superdome in New Orleans — stands as one of the most cherished in the series, since it marked the final contest coached by Grambling's Eddie Robinson.

Robinson, at the time, tried to down play things.

"I'm really not trying to think of this game as my last," he said, days before kickoff. "It's there in the back of my mind, but I'm really just trying to take this as just the next game we have to try to win."

That's not the way it turned out, of course, as a final loss marked the end of the late Robinson's sterling 57-season career. His career tally: 408 wins, with 165 losses and 15 ties over 45 winning seasons.

There was more to it, though, then and now.

"During that last game, I'll never forget looking into his eyes," said former Grambling offensive lineman Toriano Young, a Wossman product. "He had a couple of tears rolling out. He said: 'I tried to teach you as football players, but most of all as young men.' You won't find too many coaches who would talk about not just about football, but also the game of life."

Now, a decade later, the Bayou Classic is set for kickoff at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Superdome — without Robinson, its cofounder. He succumbed to complications from Alzheimer's seven months ago at age 88.

"The game itself has continued — and, for our family, there is a feeling of pride and accomplishment," said Eddie Robinson Jr., a former player who coached alongside his father for 15 seasons. "The feeling on that last day, in his last game, is something you really can't describe, though — even if you've lived it."

The emotions surrounding the 1997 Bayou Classic continue to resonate, even if the contest was over almost before it began.


Southern jumped out to a quick 20-point lead in 1997, as quarterback Marcus Jacoby connected on touchdown passes of 3 and 16 yards, while kicker Chris Diaz hit field goals of 32 and 39 yards.

"We couldn't give you a show," Robinson lamented after the game. "They played better from the beginning."

Grambling answered at 8:42 in the second period with a 49-yard catch and run by Silas Payne, but could not find the end zone again.

The deflating finale was particularly frustrating for offensive coordinator Melvin "Jim" Lee, a former standout for Robinson on GSU's undefeated 1955 teams who later served for 40 seasons as his assistant.

Lee's tenure on the sidelines included more than 300 of Robinson's wins, but concluded with six straight stumbles over that emotional season. The program, hobbled by integration, had become the victim of passing-game inconsistencies — and passing times.

"The kids tried their very best," Lee said, "but we just didn't have the talent."

More than 250 credential requests were filled, overflowing the Superdome's allotment of 175 seats for the media. The locker room and stands teemed with well-known Grambling products, including Willie Davis, James Harris, Ernie Ladd and Roosevelt Taylor. Charles Smith, Henry Dyer, Mike Williams, James Hunter, Elfrid Payton and Trumaine Johnson were also spotted.

"He was really touched by that," Robinson Jr. said.

Still, the very attention that Robinson so richly deserved as he concluded an immortal college football career — he still holds the Division I record for victories — ended up working against Grambling on that Saturday in November 1997.

"Everybody did us a favor by putting all the attention on Eddie Robinson," Southern coach Pete Richardson said then. "We just had to come in and do what we usually do."

That was win, and handily. Richardson would never fall to Robinson, and claimed two of Southern's four SWAC titles of the 1990s during his final seasons at Grambling.

"My dad never really looked at it from a personal standpoint. He just wanted to beat Southern — whoever was the coach," Robinson Jr. said. "Pete was a guy who had some good athletes. He and his staff just did a good job of coaching, not just against Grambling but against everybody."


When this one was over, Jacoby had added a third touchdown for Southern, and the second TD toss to John Foreman, before Diaz finished the scoring with a three-pointer from 27 yards with five minutes remaining.

As the clock, and Robinson's career, winded down, GSU players like Young and defensive back Fahkir Brown could sense the enormity of the moment.

"It's a great honor, playing in his last game," Brown, now an NFL starter for the St. Louis Rams, said after the game. "I know I was playing my hardest."

Robinson's counsel still resonates for Young, called "Big Preacher" back then.

"I'm glad I got a chance, this privilege, to play under a legend in his own time," Young said. "I may not ever see him again, but I know I got chance to play for him — and to build a father-son relationship with him."

In the end, Silas — named Grambling's player of the game — led all Tigers' receivers with four catches for 76 yards. GSU quarterback Michael Kornblau only completed two other passes for 14 additional yards. Wingback Frank Bailey led the Tigers with fewer than 30 rushing yards.

Defensively, linebacker Claudell Sanford — who also kicked off for Robinson — topped all GSU tacklers with 11, adding a fumble recovery. Lineman DeCarlos "Los" Holmes, a former All-Northeast standout at Grambling High and now an assistant at Bastrop, added nine tackles — including four for a loss.

"It wasn't a really good memory because we lost," Robinson Jr. said. "That, combined with it being his last one, I would say we had mixed emotions. But the send off that the fans gave him? I thought that was great."

Robinson left the game in style, to cheers from both sides of the stadium. The Chrysler Minority Dealers Association presented the then-78 year old with a 1998 Dodge Intrepid during post-game festivities.

"We're so proud to be playing in this facility, in the state of Louisiana and in the greatest country in the world," Robinson said then, fighting back tears.

He also stopped to accept a call from President Bill Clinton.

"Mr. President," Robinson said, "to be here with my friends, and people I know and love, and to be talked to you, this is indeed a great honor."

Then just after 5 p.m., he began to make his way out of the Superdome.

"Wait, Coach," a Superdome official said, as Robinson turned the key on the Intrepid. "There is a press conference to go to next."

The event and all of its attendant duties had almost been lost in the hoopla, the game very nearly turned into a sideshow. But, in this instance, it was appropriate. Robinson's towering achievements deserved no less.

"I saw a lot of evidence of him taking it all in later," Robinson Jr. said. "The way he was treated, and the way he was honored, really hit him then."

The College Football Hall of Fame would waive its mandatory three-year waiting period following retirement for Robinson, notifying him just weeks later of his induction.



NBC Sports will air the documentary "Every Man a Tiger: The Eddie Robinson Story" a half hour before the Bayou Classic on Saturday.

"NBC came in and spent a lot of time with us," said Eddie Robinson Jr., who coached with his father for 15 years. "We're just thankful to have him and the family recognized like that."

The 30-minute special will be presented commercial-free at 12:30 p.m. by State Farm. A trailer of the film can be viewed at www.

The longtime former Grambling coach passed last April at age 88.

— Nick Deriso,

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BAYOU CLASSIC 2007: With plenty still to play for, Grambling moves past ULM loss
November 20, 2007

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Losing to ULM, as emotional as that was, is behind them now.

Sure, Grambling State's stumble goes on the overall ledger, but this week's Southern game counts.

In the standings, and in the lore surrounding this program.

GSU had won eight Southwestern Athletic Conference contests, including seven in row, before falling against that nearby upper-classification foe two weeks ago. A win against Southern, though, would complete a second undefeated league run in two seasons.

The Bayou Classic kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Superdome in New Orleans, and will be broadcast nationally on NBC.

"We're still 8-2," said first-year coach Rod Broadway. "We're undefeated in our league, and we're proud of that. Our goal is to win the conference championship."

Grambling secured a berth in that match by beating Alabama State on Nov. 3. Next came a two-touchdown loss to ULM.

"As much as we wanted that game, it's not a conference game," said record-breaking senior Grambling receiver Clyde Edwards, a Houston native. "We're still undefeated in SWAC. Now, we're getting ready for Southern."

Even locals like junior quarterback Brandon Landers, who prepped at Monroe's Carroll High, have put the disappointment behind them.

"Life goes on. We're focused on Southern, on the game at hand," said Landers, who is 1-1 as a starter in the Bayou Classic. "We've put that behind us; now we are focusing on the next opponent."

Southern, at 7-3 overall and 5-3 in league action, has fallen into third place in the SWAC's Western Division, taking some of the intrigue out of Saturday's game. But not much.

"If I have heard it one time," Broadway said, "I have heard it a thousand times: 'We don't care how you do, as long as you beat Southern."

Either the Jaguars or GSU have now advanced to represent the West at the SCG in seven of its eight total editions. Grambling has established a 4-0 record, while Southern is 2-1.

With a trip to the next championship contest already assured, Grambling has a chance to continue a decade of dominance that has run unabated through a series of coaching changes. Doug Williams led GSU to titles in 2000-02, while Melvin Spears helped the Tigers to another in 2005.

Still, Broadway isn't looking that far down the road just yet. Not with the emotion, pageantry and flinty competitiveness that Southern always adds to this in-state conference rivalry.

Twice, in 1999 and 2003, the Bayou Classic decided which of the two teams advanced to the SWAC Championship Game. Southern won both, on its way to a pair of titles.

"There's a lot of meat left on that bone," Broadway said of Grambling's season. "We can't get too satisfied with the championship berth with Southern staring us in the face. We've got to get ready for that."

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BAYOU CLASSIC 2007: Taking cues from a defensive guru
November 22, 2007

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — One of the most intriguing subplots of this Bayou Classic stars Clifford Yoshida.

Once a defensive coordinator for longtime Southern coach Pete Richardson, he returned to Baton Rouge in 2006 as an assistant with Rod Broadway at Division II North Carolina Central and topped his former boss.

He then followed Broadway from NCCU to Grambling, setting up a rematch in Saturday's in-state Southwestern Athletic Conference rivalry game.

Kickoff for the Bayou Classic between Southern and Grambling is set for 1 p.m. at the Superdome. NBC will broadcast the game nationally.

"We're doing something a little different, demanding some different things," said Yoshida, who was with Broadway for three seasons at NCCU. "They seem to be responding. I'm happy with the progress."

Grambling enters this weekend's contest at No. 2 for total defense, allowing 288 yards a game — and league-low 17 touchdowns. Grambling is also No. 2 in the SWAC for turnover margin, with a plus-15 ratio.

"'Coach Yo' is a big improvement from last year, I must say," said senior Grambling defensive back Jeffrey Jack, an LSU transfer. "He makes good calls, and prepares us very well. He puts us in good position within the game so we can stop people."

This remade Grambling staff has won eight SWAC games already, with a chance to go undefeated in regular-season league play at the Bayou Classic. In fact, its only two losses are against upper-division teams, Pittsburgh in September and ULM earlier this month.

Even in that two-touchdown loss to the Warhawks on Nov. 10, Broadway took time out to praise his improving defenders for plugging up the middle.

"Our defense never gave up," Broadway said. "For the most part we stopped the run, though we lost containment a couple of times and the ball got outside. We created some turnovers that weren't able to capitalize on."

The connection between Yoshida, a 37-year coaching veteran, and Richardson goes back to the Jaguars' initial SWAC championship in 1993. He and Richardson went 11-1 (the program's second 11-plus win season ever) and brought home Southern's first league crown in 18 years — and its first outright crown in 34 seasons.

That began an impressive streak for Southern, though Yoshida departed for East Carolina. The Jaguars would win five titles over the next 10 seasons — a run that included SWAC Championship Game victories in 1999 and 2003 — as well as a runner-up finish in 2004.

Many credit the groundwork installed by "Coach Yo," who's helped reshape a similarly moribund Grambling defense that had hovered near the bottom of the league in many key categories for much of last season.

"It's pretty comparable," Yoshida said. "They've taken a little while to get used to what we are trying to teach. Old habits are sometimes hard to break — after all, they had played under the old system for three years."

Grambling would end up allowing a league-worst 34 touchdowns in 2006, with 21 surrendered by its cellar-dwelling rush defense.

Meanwhile, on that return trip last year to Baton Rouge, Yoshida befuddled Southern — forcing the Jaguars into seven turnovers (six interceptions and one fumble recovery) on the way to a shocking 27-20 victory.

"We've got shut them down again, to keep his reputation up," said Jack, who leads all Grambling tacklers with 64.

That NCCU win in Baton Rouge was part of a school-record 11-0 season, as Broadway and Yoshida won a second consecutive Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Football championship.

Broadway, one of black college football's hottest commodities last offseason, then found his way to Grambling and brought Yoshida along.

They found a Grambling defense in transition.

The program had missed critical on-field leadership as consecutive defensive ends left through the NFL Draft in 2005-06, first Kenneth Pettway and then Jason Hatcher, then saw four starters graduate going into 2007.

But all was not lost, Yoshida said.

"In my opinion, we have some pretty good guys in the back end — and we have some size up front," Yoshida said.

He and the Grambling staff have been able to transform senior lineman Jason Banks into an every-down menace on the nose, and maximized the emerging talent of sophomore end Chris Anthony.

Fellow end John Scroggins, though hobbled this week with an ankle injury, provides critical disruption for the youthful linebacking unit led by junior John Carter and converted safety Zaire "Pitbull" Wilborn. A veteran secondary manned by Jack and DeMichael Dizer, among others, rounds out the group.

"I think we've got some athletic ability; the kids run pretty well," Yoshida said. "When we put it all together, I think we're pretty decent."

Described by more than one Grambling defender as a mad scientist-type, Yoshida has used inventive schemes and one-of-kind personality in the film room to forge a newfound confidence.

This group has, in fact, been at its best in league matches that mattered most.

Grambling allowed an average of 11 points in games against defending league champion Alabama A&M, eventual 2007 Eastern Division winner Jackson State and in the contest against Alabama State that clinched a berth in the SWAC Championship Game.

A&M managed just 147 total yards (30 of it on the ground), while only 34 of ASU's 169 total yards came by air. Jackson State had better passing numbers, but could eke out just 25 yards on the ground.

"I think we can get a lot better," Yoshida said. "We're just taking it one week at a time, and trying to improve. It's typical coach-speak. But that's really what you are trying to do."

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BAYOU CLASSIC 2007: Lewis arrives for Grambling in 'Nick' of time
Big-play junior has become Tigers' leading receiver in yards per catch

November 19, 2007

By Nick Deriso
GRAMBLING — Southern will likely have a tight focus on passing downs against Grambling State.

After all, GSU starts widely respected receivers Clyde Edwards and Reginald Jackson. The former holds a school record for career touchdowns, while the latter is a guy who's gobbled up 57 passes so far in 2007.

That tends to draw attention away from junior Nick Lewis, who's managed just 10 receptions.

He's taken an opportunistic approach when the ball comes his way, though, rewarding the patient with some memorable, electrifying experiences.

That was Lewis, for instance, dashing 51 yards for a score against Texas Southern at homecoming, then adding another 63-yard stunner against Football Bowl Subdivision opponent Louisiana-Monroe two weeks later.

"Nick can run, and now he's catching the ball better," said first-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway. "That's what it's all about, growth. He's growing as a player, and getting better and better."

Up next for GSU is its pitched in-state rivalry game against Southern, in the 34th edition of the Bayou Classic. Kickoff is 1 p.m. Saturday at the Louisiana Superdome.

Lewis arrives in New Orleans as the perfect check down, when Edwards and Jackson are covered, for the deep passes that open up Grambling's running game.

"That sets the mold for how we want to play the game," said Lewis, a 6-0, 180-pound Marshall, Texas, product.

A knack for the big catch has helped Lewis shoot up to No. 4 on the team for total receiving yards with 239.

He's averaging a team-best 23-yards per catch, well past the SWAC's leading receiver — Alabama A&M's Thomas Harris, who is averaging 18. Only Jackson has made a longer catch and run for Grambling this season.

"Nick is very deceptive, and has great size," said 10th-year Grambling receivers coach Sammy White. "He came out of Marshall as a running back, but has been working with me for three years and we're looking for big things out of him."

Lewis says he's fine, for now, outside the spotlight. A backup who never saw the field when GSU surged to the Southwestern Athletic Conference title in 2005, he is more focused on the big picture of winning.

Beating Southern this week at the Bayou Classic, Lewis said, would help Grambling regain whatever momentum it lost in that two-touchdown stumble against ULM.

"We can see on the film that they are a pretty good team," Lewis said. "On offense, we've got step up."

When Lewis hauled in that 51-yarder at homecoming, it was his only catch of the day — and just his seventh on the year.

Still, Lewis has already matched his receptions total as a sophomore, when he averaged just 14 yards a catch. And he didn't even appear in the stat sheet for four games, sitting out against Alabama A&M and Prairie View and being held without a catch at Alcorn and FBS foe Pittsburgh.

"When he gets the chance, he's making the best of it," said junior quarterback Brandon Landers. "We're trying to get everyone involved in the offense right now, and he's making plays."

That includes critical receptions on each of Grambling's first three scoring drives against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. They went for 18, 17 and then 27 yards, helping GSU regain a lead it would never relinquish.

His 15-yard reception at Alabama State was part of Grambling's second scoring drive. Lewis also had one catch (for 17 yards) against Mississippi Valley, and two against Jackson State.

Each was a league win for Grambling, part of a streak of seven in a row that hurtled GSU to its fifth Western Division crown since 2000.

"He's got all the tools," Edwards said. "He's making the best of his opportunities."

And Lewis is making them at just the right time, since both Edwards and Jackson are departing seniors.

"It will be between him and (junior Clinton native) Kovarus Hills," said White, himself a former All-SWAC wingback at Grambling. "Nick has really been coming around. He could definitely be our No. 1 receiver one day."

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OPENING DRIVE: Grambling vs. Southern, Bayou Classic XXXIV
November 24, 2007

By Nick Deriso
Grambling State has won eight straight Southwestern Athletic Conference games so far.

The Tigers have clinched a trip to the SWAC Championship Game, their fifth since 2000.

So what?

All of that means little to many fans if Grambling falls in the Bayou Classic, its annual nationally televised Superdome contest against in-state rival Southern.

Lose them all, supporters have told first-year GSU coach Rod Broadway, but you better win this one.

That would appear to be an easy proposition

After all, Grambling's only 2007 losses have been to upper-classification foes Pittsburgh and ULM. Meanwhile, the once-streaking Southern opened with five wins but then finished 2-3, leaving the Jaguars to play the spoiler role.

But this is a spot that suits the Jaguars, who are a respectable 2-2 in the Bayou Classic when Grambling has already booked a trip to Birmingham — winning in 2000 and '02.

"This is one where I've been told you can throw the records out the window," Broadway said. "I don't know if how we are doing, or how they are doing, has anything to do with this game. It's how well you prepare and how well you play during the course of the game."

Southern, which is trying to avoid finishing lower than second place in the West for the first time since 2000, has gone 11-3 against Grambling since Pete Richardson took over. That run has pushed Southern ahead by one all-time victory, but the series is knotted at 3-3 since 2001.

Grambling (8-2) vs. Southern (7-3)

• Kickoff: 1 p.m. today, Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans


• Series: Southern, 17-16.

•Coaches: Grambling, Rod Broadway (first year, 8-2; 41-13 overall); Southern, Pete Richardson (15th year, 121-52; 163-66-1 overall).

•Line: Grambling by 11 1/2


Do the little things

As dramatic as the Bayou Classic can be, with so many stirring twists and turns, the games have typically turned on one or two key plays.

Grambling fell last year, for instance, when a fourth-year starting running back couldn't convert on a fourth-and-one from the Southern 2-yard line with less than two minutes remaining.

The pitched emotions associated with the Bayou Classic require a centered, fundamentally sound approach. Broadway has stressed that all week.


Grambling running backs vs. Southern defense

When Grambling couldn't get its running game going against ULM two Saturdays ago, the passing attack was grounded as well. The new scheme installed for junior quarterback Brandon Landers relies on the rush, and intermediate passing, to set up deep strikes to receivers Clyde Edwards and Reginald Jackson.

If Southern makes GSU one dimensional, as ULM did, the Tigers could fall for a second time in as many years.


Grambling's defense has been drilling extensively for the screen play, something Southern has used to bedevil the Tigers.

"They threw a lot of them last year, and they beat us," said Grambling defensive back Jeffrey Jack, the team's leading tackler. "We've been working on executing against that. If we give a good effort, we can win."


The Bayou Classic doesn't count in the sense that Grambling has already secured a berth in December's SWAC Championship Game.

Then again, the Southern game is critical to state recruiting, and to bragging rights. Players like senior GSU defender Jason Banks would also like to gain momentum with a final regular-season victory.

"You don't want to go into the championship with a loss," Banks said. "Southern lost to us in 2004 and went on to lose the SWAC."

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BAYOU CLASSIC 2007: New Orleans game still big deal for Robinsons
November 24, 2007

y Nick Deriso
NEW ORLEANS — For Doris Robinson, the trip back to New Orleans was one of both joy and melancholy.

There are so many things she remembers, in and around the Superdome, about her life as the wife of late longtime Grambling State coach Eddie Robinson.

Robinson co-founded the Bayou Classic in this place, perhaps his most obvious legacy after passing last

April at age 88. His name is written on a commemorative banner inside the facility — and, even today, across her heart.

"I have cried today," said Doris Robinson, who cared for her husband through a long bout with Alzheimer's-like symptoms. "But I am through with that now. I am going to enjoy the rest of this weekend."

This is just the second time she has attended the Bayou Classic, today's nationally televised in-state rivalry game against Baton Rouge-based Southern, since Robinson retired a decade ago.

Married as childhood sweethearts in 1941, Doris and Eddie were present when the Superdome honored Robinson with that banner.

"It means a lot," Doris Robinson said. "Everything has. When people say good things about him, I know that way back then I wasn't wrong."

Robinson and her son Eddie Robinson Jr. were set to spend the rest of Friday night visiting with friends and family. Today, she will be honored — fans have taken to calling Robinson the "First Lady of Football" — before the 34th playing of the Bayou Classic.

"It's always been a real good event for the state, and one that everybody has come to associate with my father and the family," said Robinson Jr., who coached alongside his dad for 15 seasons. "It brings back a lot of good memories."

The last few months have been a whirlwind for the Robinson family, as a series of the coach's former Southwestern Athletic Conference foes honored a man who still holds the Division I record for wins. The SWAC also announced that its football championship trophy will be renamed for Robinson.

At Grambling, the football team is wearing jersey patches in memory of the former coach, and Doris Robinson was also recognized before GSU's first home game.

Today, NBC Sports will also air a 30-minute Robinson documentary at 12:30 p.m., a half hour before kickoff, called "Every Man a Tiger." Included is never-before-seen archival footage as well as new images and interviews collected earlier this year.

"It has been great, and sometimes overwhelming," Doris Robinson said. "Of course, they were not telling me anything that I didn't know about him already. It just so happened that everything I knew about him was good. It's been nice sharing the memories."

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BAYOU BUMMER: Grambling falls to Southern for 2nd straight Classic loss
November 25, 2007

By Nick Deriso
NEW ORLEANS — Grambling State University fell behind in the first quarter and never regained the lead in a tightly contested Bayou Classic loss to Southern University.

GSU's 22-13 stumble, its first in Southwestern Athletic Conference play, leaves the team at 8-3 overall.

"The most embarrassing part is they played harder than us," first-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway said. "I think they had a little more intensity than we had tonight."

The Tigers have lost two straight after falling to the University of Louisiana at Monroe in non-league action two weeks ago.

Despite that skid, Grambling has already secured a berth in the SWAC Championship Game, to be played Dec. 15 against Eastern Division champion Jackson State. GSU earned the Western crown for the fifth time since 2000 with a win over Texas Southern in October.

That didn't lessen the impact of losing to Grambling's in-state conference rival.

"They outcoached us, and they outplayed us," Broadway said. "We'll regroup in the next couple of weeks and try to win the SWAC Championship."

Southern, which has taken two in a row against GSU, now leads the all-time series 18-16. Over the years, Southern has had overwhelming success when the games are close, winning nine of 11 contests decided by a touchdown or less since the game moved to the Superdome in 1974.

Attendance on Saturday, announced at 53,297, was the fourth-lowest ever. Last season's crowd of 47,136, in the first-post Katrina playing of the Bayou Classic, set the record for smallest gate.

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BAYOU CLASSIC: As always, this rivalry leaves little room for error
November 25, 2007

By Nick Deriso
NEW ORLEANS — Southern scored.

Grambling scored.

Southern scored again.

It was only the first quarter in the Bayou Classic.

Always a back-and-forth affair, and often featuring whisker-thin margins of victory, this is the way it goes when Grambling and Southern play.

This makes for a November afternoon spent twisting and squirming in edge-of-the-bleacher anticipation.

That's true for fans as much as it is for first-time participants like rookie Grambling coach Rod Broadway.

"I enjoyed everything," he said, "except the outcome."

There are now just two victories separating Southern and Grambling since this intense, emotional rivalry moved into the Superdome. The Jaguars have won 18 times while GSU has taken 16.

Over the past six years, each had won three times. Coming into this game, Grambling quarterback Brandon Landers was 1-1 all time as a starter against the Jaguars.

So, not surprisingly, the 34th Bayou Classic began with a knotted-up initial period, then deadlocked with a series of failed attempts to score after Southern established a 14-7 lead.

Southern ran 35 first-half plays, and Grambling ran 34. GSU had 10 first downs through half time, while Southern had 13. Each had an interception.

"Oh, man," junior Grambling quarterback Brandon Landers said, as senior receiver Reginald Jackson sat nearby trying to compose himself after the game.

"We both came out fired up," Landers finally continued. "Southern stayed on us, though."

Blows were landed, and countered. But both teams stood, a bit bloodied but resolute, having resolved almost nothing as the bands played.

All was as expected.

Grambling might have seen an opening when starting Southern quarterback Bryant Lee left the game with a fractured thumb. Instead, the second half began with two punts.

Even when Southern put together a drive deep into Grambling territory early in the third period, backup passer Warren Mathews lost a fumble after being smothered by a group of Tiger tacklers.

Nobody had scored since the 1:50 mark in the first period.

Somebody would have to make a mistake. Any mistake would do, with a game this close.

Grambling made that mistake, then made another.

Both miscues came on special teams, leading to five points by the Jaguars, first on a safety then on a field goal.

"It got us in trouble, but the difference was they played harder than us, and faster than us," Broadway said. "It's not one thing. It's a lot of things. We couldn't defend the pass; we couldn't stop the run. We couldn't throw; we couldn't catch. It was a total breakdown on our part."

Southern had the smallest sliver of a lead, 19-7 midway through the fourth quarter.

It would be enough. It usually is.

Southern is 9-2 in Bayou Classics decided by a touchdown or less — a streak that includes last year's edition, when Grambling lost after failing to convert on fourth-and-one to extend its final offensive drive.

An offensive showcase-turned-defensive battle that produced just two points over two periods then turned again.

Southern scored, then Grambling scored, then Southern scored again in a fourth quarter every bit as fast-paced and thrilling as the first.

The contest had blown open with an almost visceral suddenness, like a balloon popping.

Grambling added a 27-yard touchdown pass from Landers to senior Clyde Edwards — tightening his grip on the school record for scoring receptions — but then gave up a long pass to set up the deciding Southern field goal.

"They're a good team," Landers said. "They made the plays down the stretch. You've got to take your hats off to them."

A final Landers interception made it official. But this one had been over since that first snap was lost at the feet of Grambling punter Tim Manuel.

In a rivalry like this, played to a virtual draw, there is no room for error.

And certainly not for two.

Grambling, as expected, would lose.

"They played harder than us; they played better than us," Broadway, clearly frustrated, finally said. "It's just embarrassing."

NICK DERISO is assistant managing editor at The News-Star, 411 N. Fourth St., Monroe, La., 71201. Contact him at (318) 362-0234 or at nderiso



Junior Grambling defensive back Aaron Brown picked off a Bryant Lee attempt early in the second quarter, the first turnover of the 34th Bayou Classic and his first-ever interception. Brown is a brother of Chris Brown, a key secondary contributor on Grambling's 2002 championship team.


Junior quarterback Brandon Landers, set up late in the first half at the Southern 30, was hit on a safety blitz just as he threw, sending the ball wobbling between two GSU receivers. Southern defensive back Michael Williams was there to pick it off, snuffing a chance for Grambling to even the score at 14.


Sterlington product DeMichael Dizer, a senior Grambling defensive back, put a stinging hit on Southern receiver Clevan White — knocking him back three yards on the Jaguars' initial drive of the day.


Senior Grambling kicker Tim Manuel had a trio of effective, if not very pretty, directional punts in the first half, pinning Southern deep in its own territory. But a blocked attempt in the third quarter, then a mishandled ball inside the Grambling 10 on a final-period bad snap, erased what had once been a stellar day on special teams.


Senior Grambling quarterback Larry Kerlegan took the field for the first time since re-injuring his ankle against Mississippi Valley, lining up in the slot during Grambling's initial drive. He later spelled at quarterback when Landers took a breather after a third-quarter clobbering by Southern's Joseph Selders and D.J. Bolton.


Attendance at the game, announced at 53,297 on Saturday, was the fourth-lowest ever. Last season's crowd of 47,136, in the first-post Katrina playing of the Bayou Classic, set the record low. The biggest gate ever remains the initial playing in 1974, when 76,753 fans crammed into the old Tulane Stadium. The two highest-attended Bayou Classics of the last decade were in 1996 and 2002, both with Superdome capacity crowds of 72,586 announced.

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BAYOU CLASSIC: Grambling's Broadway confronted by furious fans
November 25, 2007

By Nick Deriso
NEW ORLEANS — First-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway got a rude introduction into the furious emotion associated with losing the Bayou Classic.

In the frenetic moments following Southern's 22-13 win in this in-state rivalry game, Broadway was accosted by several supporters — including former Grambling defender Elfrid Payton.

Broadway was still stung by the fans' response, as reporters encircled him outside the GSU lockerroom in the Superdome moments later.

"They can have this (expletive) job," Broadway said. "If that's the way they want to do, they can have this (expletive) job."

Payton also confronted former Grambling coach Doug Williams after the 2003 Bayou Classic, which GSU lost 44-41, nearly causing a fist fight.

"That's a shame," Broadway said. "We are trying as hard as we can try. That's why I don't want (fans) down there (on the sideline). That stuff is uncalled for."

RECOGNIZING THE ROBINSONS: Doris Robinson appeared at midfield in pregame ceremonies, where she was recognized along with son Eddie Robinson Jr. and grandson Eddie Robinson III.

The late Eddie Robinson coached his final game at the 1997 Bayou Classic, wrapping up a career that included a Division I record 408 wins. The Superdome later honored him with a commemorative banner that still hangs in the facility. He's one of just five people ever to be so recognized — and the only one not associated with a New Orleans sports team or the Superdome itself.

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal and Grambling president Horace Judson were among those who shared the spotlight with Robinson's widow, who was decked out completely in gold.

A moment of silence was held for Robinson before kickoff.

TIGER PAUSE: The Grambling football team debuted a new jersey on Saturday, playing in gold with black and white stripes — reminiscent of the style worn by the Tigers under Coach Eddie Robinson in the 1970s, but with a black stripe down the side and without the red accent. ... The Tiger Marching Band, meanwhile, appeared in white tuxedos, a look from the 1980s. ... Ford Motors, a game sponsor, handed out thundersticks before the game, added a tremendous amount of volume to the raucous proceedings. ... Grambling captains were Jason Banks, Clyde Edwards, DeMichael Dizer (a Sterlington product) and Tim Manuel. ... Freshman Grambling running back Frank Warren was prominently featured in a commercial during the Bayou Classic for a new video game focusing on black college football programs.

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BAYOU CLASSIC: Fans say they understand Grambling coach's frustration
November 26, 2007

By Nick Deriso
NEW ORLEANS — Grambling State's Rod Broadway can be forgiven for angry comments made in the furor of emotion following Saturday's loss in the Bayou Classic.

That's the response from many GSU fans, a day after their first-year coach lashed out when confronted by disappointed alumni on the Superdome sidelines.

"I was always of the opinion that fans are supposed to be the support group of an athletic entity," said Michael Watson, a 1977 Grambling graduate. "How was this latest display of contempt toward Coach Broadway supportive?"

Moments after exchanging heated sideline barbs with supporters, including former Grambling defender Elfrid Payton, Broadway became increasingly frustrated in front of a group of reporters when asked about the situation.

"They can have this (expletive) job," Broadway said, stabbing the air with his index finger. "If that's the way they want to do, they can have this (expletive) job."

Broadway then stormed back into the locker room.

"The guy approached Coach in an ignorant manner which in no way reflects the attitude of loyal Grambling, alumni, supporters and friends," said GSU fan Kendall C. Price, a Monroe native. "What Coach said wasn't in his heart, but he said it in human defense of his feelings."

Besides, longtime Grambling fan Beverly Thomas said, Saturday's loss can't tarnish the stellar job this new staff has done in rebuilding after a dismal record last season.

"Coach Broadway has turned a 3-8 team into an 8-3 within a year," she said. "GSU went from SWAC champs in 2005 to SWAC chumps in '06 and now is on the road to becoming SWAC champs again in '07. My hat goes off to him."

Widespread support for Broadway could also be found on The News-Star's story chat and on various Web-based message boards.

"Broadway is well within his rights with what he said," OPLioninVA wrote on forums. "Elfrid Payton is a shining example of what is wrong with sports today: Overzealous fans that really need to either apply for the job, or have a seat. He and the others are an embarrassment to quality fans of college football programs all over the country."

Poster Yankkee added: "Coach Broadway is a class individual who deserves better treatment than this."

Asked again later about the incident, Broadway reiterated that he felt stiffer screening measures should be put in place to keep packs of roaming onlookers from impacting the game.

Grambling athletics director Troy Mathieu said the school had given out sideline passes to only a select few key alumni — including former players Trumaine Johnson and Doug Williams, who later coached at GSU from 1998-2003. Mathieu was unsure how others gained the necessary credentials to walk the sidelines.

"I fully support Coach Broadway and I understand his frustration," said Kenn Rashad, a 1990 Grambling graduate who owns the black college sports message board, where a lively discussion on Broadway's comments continued into Sunday.

"Unfortunately, in the game of college football, fans seem to forget what their role is," Rashad said. "That role does not include accosting a coach or player — especially right after an emotional loss. Considering that this is nothing new for Elfrid Payton, Coach Broadway is justified in his remarks."

Payton also confronted Williams after the 2003 Bayou Classic, a gut-wrenching three-point stumble that kept Grambling from an historic fourth consecutive conference championship game.

"What really disappoints me is that a former player from Coach Eddie Robinson's lineage was a major player in the group that embarrassed all true fans of Grambling," Watson said. "On a day in which we were honoring this great man, one of his former players acted in a manner that was the antithesis of what Coach stood for and tried to teach his players."

OPLioninVA, posting at, added: "Keep your head up Coach Broadway and staff. Although we did not win this game, I still see the big picture, and I know many others do, too."

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