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A five-game losing streak overshadowed some of the progress but led to Jackson finding his quarterback of the future in freshman Julian Calvez.
And on Saturday, the Tigers threatened to pull a stunner in the Bayou Classic before fizzling in the fourth quarter and falling to Southern 34-17 on Saturday at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
Grambling led 17-14 before a tight game swung toward Southern following a roughing-the-punter penalty with 50 seconds left in the third quarter. The Jaguars took the lead when quarterback Besean McCray ran in a touchdown moments later, igniting a 20-0 run by Southern to put the game away.
Southern advances to face Jackson State (11-0, 8-0 SWAC) in the SWAC Championship at 3 p.m. next Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Grambling (4-8, 2-6) started fast against Southern, as Calvez threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Lyndon Rash to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 43 seconds to play in the first quarter.
McCray responded by hitting wide receiver Cassius Allen on a 32-yard slant pass to move the ball to Grambling's 5-yard line, where Jaguars running back Kendrick Rhymes scored with 25 seconds left in the half for a 14-10 lead.
Grambling’s opening drive in the third quarter culminated on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. On fourth down, Calvez ran a delayed quarterback sneak as the Tigers retook the lead.
After Southern’s go-ahead touchdown on the roughing penalty, the Jaguars put the game away when defensive tackle Derrick Williams sacked Calvez for a 13-yard loss, forcing a fumble that safety Jordan Carter it 26 yards for a touchdown with 7:42 remaining.
The win gives Southern a rematch with JSU, which beat the Jaguars 35-0 on Oct. 29 after ESPN’s “College GameDay” pregame show visited Jackson State for the first time in history.
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This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Grambling fizzles under Hue Jackson, drops Bayou Classic to Southern