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Football at Grambling State vs Southern: Highlights and the entire Bayou Classic history

​​It's been more than 85 years since Grambling State and Southern first battled on the gridiron. The Grambling State and Southern football rivalry, known as the "Bayou Classic," is one of the biggest events in HBCU football. The Tigers and Jaguars have a combined 45 SWAC Championships, seven NFL Hall of Famers and many years of history.

Southern first met Grambling State in 1932 on Armistice Day, but the Bayou Classic didn't commence until 42 years later.

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Since 1974, the Tigers and Jaguars have met annually on Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans, Louisiana* for the Bayou Classic. The Bayou Classic is more than just a game; it encompasses an entire weekend, with fans from both schools traveling in droves to support their schools. The battle of the bands is an event of its own with Southern's band, The Human Jukebox, taking on Grambling State's Tiger Marching Band, filling the stadium with music.

*In 2005, the Bayou Classic was in Houston, Texas after Hurricane Katrina and in Apr. 2021 the game was in Shreveport, Louisiana after the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Grambling State and Southern met in 2023, it marked the Bayou Classic's 50th all-time meeting. Southern defeated Grambling State 27-22. The win keeps the Jaguars the all-time Bayou Classic series lead 26-24.

However, there's more to this rivalry than wins and losses, with immense history throughout the series. Here are just a few notable historical events that have happened since the Bayou Classic's inception:

  • 1974: Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's MLB home run record.
  • 1975: Muhammad Ali knocks out Joe Fraizer in the duo's third and final fight in the Thrilla in Manilla
  • 1986: Oprah Winfrey launches the nationally-syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show.
  • 1995: The Million Man March happens in Washington, D.C.

Here are five moments chronicling Grambling State and Southern's illustrious pasts.

1974 — First game

VIDEO: Top Plays All Time From Bayou Classic
ArcitechNice TV

The inaugural Bayou Classic kicked off in 1974 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. In front of 76,753 fans, Southern faced future Grambling State legend Doug Williams, a freshman quarterback. 

In his first Bayou Classic, Williams threw three interceptions. Nonetheless, the Tigers handled the Jaguars 21-0 to win the first edition of the classic.

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1979 — Southern's first win

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The Jaguars got off to a rough start in the Bayou Classic series, losing the first five games. However, senior nose tackle Kenny "The Body Snatcher" Times would not be denied in his final attempt to win a rivalry game.

In a day that included a passionate halftime speech, Times had 10 tackles and two sacks, limiting Grambling State's offense to just seven points. Southern would win 14-7 to land its first win in the Bayou Classic. Times would be named MVP.

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1991 — First game on NBC

VIDEO: Bayou Classic 1979

1991 marked the first time that a game between historically black colleges aired nationally on network television as the Bayou Classic premiered on NBC. In front of a national audience, the Bayou Classic did not disappoint. Southern knocked off Grambling 31-30 in the closest game in Bayou Classic history.

🏆: HBCU football championship history

2016 — Undefeated clash

VIDEO: 49th Annual Bayou Classic
Grambling State Tigers

Grambling State and Southern both entered 2016's Bayou Classic with 8-0 SWAC records, marking the first time both teams entered the rivalry undefeated in conference play. Moreover, Grambling State entered ranked 14th in the FCS Coaches Poll.

While the winner of the Bayou Classic would still have to play in the SWAC Championship, both the Tigers and Jaguars beat the SWAC East winner, Alcorn State. In the eyes of many, the Bayou Classic winner would be the SWAC champion.

Each team entered the Bayou Classic rolling. On one hand, Grambling State displayed its prominence against an FBS opponent, holding an 18-point lead on Arizona before losing its quarterback in what became a 31-21 loss. On the other hand, Southern featured Lenard Tillery, the SWAC's all-time leading rusher, and his 1,431 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. The Bayou Classic was set up to be a clash of the titans.

On the field, it was a Tigerfest as Grambling State routed Southern 52-30. The Tigers finished the SWAC regular season in dominant fashion, with just one team staying within 20 points.

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2021 — Game-winning field goal

VIDEO: Grambling State Halftime Show featuring Cupid - Bayou Classic 2023

2021 was the first time that two Bayou Classics were played in one calendar year. The second game, in the fall season, was an instant classic. To start, the Bayou Classic made history as the first NCAA football game to allow the use of coach-to-player electronic communication technology, which allows a coach to speak directly to one player on the field who has a helmet receiver.

On the field, the Bayou Classic allowed two struggling teams — Southern entered 4-6 while Grambling entered 3-7 — to have a chance to end the season on a high note.

The star of the 2021 Bayou Classic was none other than kicker Garret Urban who made five field goals on the day. Named the MVP, Urban's fifth field goal with two seconds to play gave Grambling State the 29-26 win.

All-time series history

VIDEO: Highlights: Southern University takes down Grambling State | Bayou Classic | NBC Sports
NBC Sports
Date Winner Score Location
Nov. 25, 2023 Southern 27-22 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 2022 Southern 34-17 New Orleans
Nov. 27, 2021 Grambling State 29–26 New Orleans
Apr. 17, 2021 Southern 49–7 Shreveport, LA
Nov. 30, 2019 Southern 30–28 New Orleans
Nov. 24, 2018 Southern 38–28 New Orleans
Nov. 25, 2017 Grambling State 30–21 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 2016 Grambling State 52–30 New Orleans
Nov. 28, 2015 Grambling State 34–23 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 2014 Southern 52–45 New Orleans
Nov. 30, 2013 Southern 40–17 New Orleans
Nov. 24, 2012 Southern 38–33 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 2011 Grambling State 36–12 New Orleans
Nov. 27, 2010 Grambling State 38–17 New Orleans
Nov. 28, 2009 Grambling State 31–13 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 2008 Grambling State 29–14 New Orleans
Nov. 24, 2007 Southern 22–13 New Orleans
Nov. 25, 2006 Southern 21–17 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 2005 Grambling State 50–35 Houston
Nov. 27, 2004 Grambling State 24–13 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 2003 Southern 44–41 New Orleans
Nov. 30, 2002 Southern 48–24 New Orleans
Nov. 24, 2001 Grambling State 30–20 New Orleans
Nov. 25, 2000 Southern 33–29 New Orleans
Nov. 27, 1999 Southern 37–31 New Orleans
Nov. 28, 1998 Southern 26–14 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 1997 Southern 30–7 New Orleans
Nov. 30, 1996 Southern 17–12 New Orleans
Nov. 25, 1995 Southern 30–14 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 1994 Southern 34–7 New Orleans
Nov. 27, 1993 Southern 31–13 New Orleans
Nov. 28, 1992 Grambling State 30–27 New Orleans
Nov. 30, 1991 Southern 31–30 New Orleans
Nov. 24, 1990 Grambling State 25–13 New Orleans
Nov. 18, 1989 Grambling State 44–30 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 1988 Southern 10–3 New Orleans
Nov. 28, 1987 Southern 27–21 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 1986 Grambling State 30–3 New Orleans
Nov. 23, 1985 Grambling State 29–12 New Orleans
Nov. 24, 1984 Grambling State 31–29 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 1983 Grambling State 24–10 New Orleans
Nov. 27, 1982 Southern 22–17 New Orleans
Nov. 21, 1981 Southern 50–20 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 1980 Grambling State 43–16 New Orleans
Dec. 1, 1979 Southern 14–7 New Orleans
Nov. 25, 1978 Grambling State 28–15 New Orleans
Nov. 26, 1977 Grambling State 55–20 New Orleans
Nov. 27, 1976 Grambling State 10–2 New Orleans
Nov. 29, 1975 Grambling State 33–17 New Orleans
Nov. 23, 1974 Grambling State 21–0 New Orleans


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