Fans stirred up for first undefeated match up of Jaguars, Tigers

imagesFor the first time in 43 years, the Bayou Classic will host both undefeated Southern University Jaguars and Grambling State Tigers next week in New Orleans. The anticipation for this match-up has always been grand ever since its official inception under the name in 1974, but, this year with both teams coming into the last game before the SWAC championship undefeated, the winner-takes-all scenario to clinch the west in the division only serves to make the hype of this year even more grand.

“When you look at the history of the Bayou Classic itself, there have been scenarios where the game would decide who goes to the SWAC Championship game or before the SWAC Championship game existed, there were situations where the Bayou Classic might have determined who wins the SWAC period; but never has there been a situation where both teams were undefeated with those stakes on the line,” said Christopher Jones, associate athletics director of media relations at Southern University.

With such high stakes, the added bonus of the winning team being nationally ranked also heightens the atmosphere surrounding the showdown in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. The game serves not only as a source of entertainment for members of both the Southern and Grambling communities but also for anyone on the fringe of Historically Black College and University gets a showcase of one the largest rivalries in college athletics.bayou-classic-lead-photo

According to Jones, this game allows those who may not be connected to either of the institutions to feel like this event is their own.

“The Bayou Classic committees as well as (New Orleans Convention Company, Inc.), which serves as the third-party organizers, have tried to create enough fanfare and atmosphere and ancillary events to fit as many different demographics as possible so there is something for everyone at the Bayou Classic,” Jones said, adding that the game and weekend of festivities can be a very effective recruiting tool for future students at both universities.

The Bayou Classic opens doors of opportunity for student-athletes to be seen by professional league scouts through this nationally televised game.

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Christopher Jones

“In this instance, especially this year, there are number of student athletes that I feel are deserving of at the very least an opportunity to try out for a team or sign as an undrafted free-agent or actually be drafted from both teams and on both sides of the ball,” Jones touted. This year, the Southern and Grambling matchup will present key contributors—senior players as well as juniors—before NFL and Canadian football league scouts who travel to see the best collegiate players.

Stand outs like Southern wide receiver Willie Quinn and running back Lenard Tillery have enjoyed notoriety throughout the SWAC and nationally with Quinn ranking 23rd in receiving yards and Tillery pulling in 4th in rushing yards in the Football Championship Subdivision or FCS. Tillery is currently the lead rusher in the SWAC and recently became the second SWAC football player to rush for over 4,000 yards in their collegiate careers. On top of holding such accolades across the conference Tillery is the first Jaguar back to rush for over 1,000 yards three years straight and is 69 yards short of breaking a 67-year-old season rushing record currently held by Odie Posey from 1949.

“Scouts know, this won’t be there first time hearing about a Willie Quinn this won’t be their first time hearing or seeing a Lenard Tillery, they make arrangements to come by and visit with the coaches watch film on their own time of the student athletes,” Jones said. “To say that if I’m a scout and I’m home for the holidays and I get off for Thanksgiving, I turn on the TV on a Saturday and watch a Willie Quinn or Lenard Tillery or some of the student athletes from Grambling that is huge because that may lead to something greater.”

Quinn currently has 834 yards total this season and nine touchdowns averaging 53 yards per game placing him second in the SWAC for receiving yards as well as fourth in conference for scoring touchdowns. Quinn is number one in the SWAC, however, at kick returns averaging 27.6 yards per game according to the official SWAC statistics living up to his preseason FCS All-American first team ranking on special teams.

HBCU Sports ranked Quinn at number eight in the preseason of HBCU Division-I top 25 players.

“Outside of Cohen, Quinn is the most exciting player in D-I HBCU football and probably all of FCS. The preseason All-America waiting to happen forces opposing teams to kick differently to avoid giving him the chance to take it to the house,” HBCU Sports reported earlier on in the season while ranking Lenard Tillery at number two on their list.

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Undefeated Grambling State University Tigers head to Bayou Classic 2016.

With Quinn and Tillery both being nationally ranked in the FCS as well both institutions possibly being ranked dispels the notion of HBCU sports being inferior to some of the other larger universities.

“Let’s put it this way, it dispels any notion that the football on this level is inferior by any means,” Jones said lamenting on the talent of HBCU athletics in general. “We have talented student athletes, the profile of a lot of our coaches in this conference and more specifically the coaches in this game are top notch they have championship pedigree and that adds a different dimension to the atmosphere of the game because it is no different than what you see from maybe the big conferences.”

He goes on to point out the scale in terms of the schools participating in it may be different but as far as the competition level, the excellent play on the field, the passion in the stands with the fan and the band is “second to none.”

The Southern Jaguars and Grambling Tigers meet in New Orleans at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Saturday, Nov. 26, with kick-off at 4pm.

By Norman J. Dotson Jr.
Jozef Syndicate reporter

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