NEW ORLEANS —(AP) Ledarius Skelton threw three touchdown passes and Southern beat Grambling 38-28 on Saturday in the 45th Bayou Classic to advance to the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game.
The Jaguars (7-3, 6-1) won the SWAC West division title by ending a three-year losing streak against the Tigers (6-5, 4-3). Southern will play at East Division champion Alcorn State in the title game next Saturday.
Skelton needed just 14 passes and 8 completions to accumulate 217 yards and his three scoring passes. Devon Benn added 167 rushing yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Southern was threatening to increase its 17-10 halftime lead on the first possession of the third quarter, but it botched a handoff and La’Allan Clark picked up the ball and ran 80 yards to the Jaguars 8.
A penalty pushed the Tigers back and they settled for Garrett Urban’s 21-yard field goal that cut Southern’s lead to 17-13.
On the next possession the Jaguars faced a third and 23 when Skelton connected with Kendall Catalon for an 80-yard touchdown and a 24-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
Skelton’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Randall Menard increased Southern’s lead to 31-13 after three quarters.
Geremy Hickbottom ran 4 yards for a touchdown and completed a pass for a two-point conversion that cut the Jaguars lead to 31-21 early in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers recovered a fumble at the Southern 19 on the next possession and Hickbottom’s 1-yard touchdown run trimmed the lead to 31-28 with 11:07 remaining.
The Jaguars answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Benn and a 38-28 lead with 7:51 left.
Southern took a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game when Kordell Caldwell blocked a punt by Martell Fontenot and fell on the football in the end zone.
Hickbottom threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Clark that pulled Grambling even at the end of the first quarter.
Ceasar Barajas’ 47-yard field goal and Skelton’s 23-yard touchdown pass to Trey Smith gave the Jaguars a 17-7 lead.
Urban kicked a 44-yard field goal with 33 seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Tigers to 17-10 at halftime.