Less than 48 hours before the final college football game he’d ever play, Southern safety Demetric Rogers reflected on his career, thinking about all the great plays, peak moments and painful losses he’d experienced since he first pulled on a blue and gold uniform.
“In my mind, I know it’s coming to an end, but I don’t want it to come to an end,” he said. “I don’t think the reality has really hit me — that this is going to be it.”
This is certainly it.
It’s not just any game. It’s not just the final game. It’s the most important game of the season — the most important game of any season.
It’s the Bayou Classic.
At 1:30 p.m. Saturday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Jaguars (4-6, 4-4 Southwestern Athletic Conference) square off against archrival Grambling (6-4, 5-3) in the 38th Bayou Classic.
So let’s get it on. If you’re not in the stands — heck, even if you are in the stands — you should follow http://twitter.com/perrynkeys for in-game updates and commentary.
For both teams, this is, of course, unlike any other game. Grambling and Southern are very similar teams this season — they’ve both lost games they probably should’ve won, but they’ve both played better toward the end of the schedule. Plus, as we all know, when Grambling and Southern get it on, teams who look average all year suddenly look like the ’96 Packers. It should be a close, close game.
With that, a few things to chew on:
- Third downs are key. Looking for a reason Southern lost four games by fewer than six points this year? Consider this: In the fourth quarter, opponents have converted 45 percent of their third downs. That’s astonishingly high, and a big reason why the SU defense has played 133 more snaps than its offense. If the Jaguars can find a way to get off the field, they’ll give themselves a chance to win at the end.
- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Southern has a minus-6 turnover margin this season. Grambling is at minus-11. We mentioned this in today’s print version of The Advocate, but in games when the Jaguars are even, plus-1 or better in the turnover department, they’re 3-2. In games when they lost the turnover battle, they’re 1-4. In other words, Southern’s odds of winning greatly decrease when the offense gets careless with the football. The same is true for Grambling. Stay ahead in the turnover category, and you’ll probably stay ahead on the scoreboard.
- Don’t overlook special teams. Grambling has a decisive edge with its field-goal and PAT units — and if you’ve watched Southern at any point this season, you know the Jaguars’ kicking game is shaky at best (22 of 28 on extra points; 5 of 10 on field goals). On the other hand, Southern has been very effective on kickoff and punt returns. SU needs a big special-teams play to gain momentum — or to keep it in their favor. And if this game is still close in the fourth quarter, the Jaguar Nation has to be a little nervous. Southern has blown too many fourth-quarter leads this season. What’s more, it can’t place much trust in a place-kicker to win the Bayou Classic for them in the clutch.
So here we go.
Again, for in-game updates and commentary, follow http://twitter.com/perrynkeys. It’s a lovely day in New Orleans.
Let’s get it on.