Tigers win second in 12 years

Updated: November 27, 2004, 7:49 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Ab Kuuan said he couldn't sleep leading up to the Bayou Classic, but he sure didn't look tired.

"I didn't sleep at all because I was dreaming about making plays," Kuuan said.

Make plays he did, rushing for 126 yards and three touchdowns to lift Grambling State to a 24-13 victory over Southern in the Bayou Classic on Saturday in the Louisiana Superdome. "Thinking about this game sent chills down my spine. I was visualizing having a game like this."

Kuuan, who carried 18 times, scored all his touchdowns in the second half as the Tigers handed the Jaguars their first conference loss and denied them an opportunity to wrap up a berth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship game.

Grambling (6-5, 3-4 SWAC) avoided a losing season by defeating the Jaguars for just the second time in the last 12 meetings.

"This was like our championship game," said Grambling running back Ruben Mayes, who gained 89 yards on 20 carries.

Southern (8-3, 6-1) can still play for the SWAC title on Dec. 11 if Alabama State defeats Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 4. Alabama State already has secured a spot in the championship game.

The Tigers' offensive line averages 330 pounds, about 50 pounds more than the Jaguars' defensive line. Grambling rushed for 279 yards on 56 attempts.

"We knew they were going to run the football," Southern coach Pete Richardson said. "They gave the illusion that they were going to throw it. But they've got that huge offensive line and they kept beating us and pounding on us. We had a tough time controlling them."

Grambling trailed 6-3 at halftime but went ahead on the first possession of the second half. The Tigers drove 68 yards and took a 10-6 lead on Kuuan's 11-yard touchdown run. Southern regained the lead, 13-10, on Devin Herbert's 2-yard touchdown run with 2:59 left in the third quarter.

Grambling climb back ahead for good, 17-13, on Kuuan's 1-yard touchdown run with 12:53 left in the game.

The Jaguars got in position to try a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, but Montie Ackley's kick was blocked by Ken Pettway and Greg Fassitt recovered the ball at the Southern 40. That was the second Jaguars field goal to be blocked. Jason Hatcher had blocked Ackley's 47-yard attempt in the first quarter.

On the possession after the second blocked kick, Kuuan's 23-yard run gave the Tigers a first down at the Southern 17. Three plays later on third-and-7, Kuuan gained seven yards to give Grambling first-and-goal at the seven, then scored on a 2-yard run three plays later, giving the Tigers a 24-13 lead with 4:22 remaining in the game.

"We came into the ball game without a whole lot to lose," Grambling coach Melvin Spears said. "We've run the ball well at times this year, but the key today was staying consistent and staying focused on the task at hand."

The Tigers had an early lead on Brian Morgan's 39-yard field goal, which was set up by Kuuan's 32-yard run out of punt formation on fourth-and-10 from Grambling's 43.

Grambling later went for fourth-and-6 from the Southern 42 with less than a minute left in the first half and failed to convert that time.

Three plays later, the Jaguars had four seconds left and threw a desperation pass down the middle of the field. Amid three Grambling defenders, Emile Bryant ran under Thomas Ricks' pass, falling across the goal line for a touchdown that gave Southern a 6-3 halftime lead.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press