NEW ORLEANS -- Grambling running back Martez Carter was knocked out of the Bayou Classic on Saturday night after suffering bruised ribs in the second half.
But the injury slowed him down only briefly as he returned to run 11 yards for the winning touchdown with 3:22 left to help Grambling beat Southern 30-21 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Tigers (10-1, 7-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference) claimed the SWAC West division title and advanced to the SWAC championship game. They also won their third straight division title and finished undefeated in SWAC play for the third consecutive season. Southern finished 7-4, 5-2.
Carter also caught a touchdown pass and finished with 92 yards rushing on 21 carries.
"When I went back into the huddle, I said, "OK, guys, I'm back," Carter said. "My teammates said, `Are you sure?" I said, "I'm good. Let's go."
Carter's 9-yard reception from Devante Kincaid helped the Tigers build a 17-7 lead. "Martez is tough," Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. "He's come back from injuries before. Any time I ask him to make a play he steps up. He reaches down deep."
Kincade completed 14 of 30 passes for 171 yards and had a touchdown run.
"Grambling put together a great drive," Southern cornerback Danny Johnson said. "We played hard, they played hard. We just have to tip our hats to them."
After Carter put Grambling up 27-21, Southern quarterback Austin Howard fumbled on the ensuing possession and Brandon Varner recovered the ball for Grambling at the Jaguars 16. That led to Marc Orozco's third field goal, from 36 yards, with 1:39 left.
Howard completed 24 of 41 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns. His 8-yard touchdown pass to Dillon Beard gave Southern a 21-20 lead with 5:02 remaining.
The Tigers led 17-7 at halftime, but Howard threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Catalon to get the Jaguars within three after three quarters. Orozco's 37-yard field goal gave Grambling a 20-14 lead with 13:57 left.
On the first play from scrimmage, Grambling's Ja'Terious Pouncy intercepted Howard at the Southern 36. Seven plays later, Kincade ran nine yards for a touchdown. The Jaguars first scoring threat came up empty when Cesar Barajas was wide left on a 25-yard field-goal attempt early in the first quarter.
The Tigers increased the lead to 14-0 on the ensuing possession when Kincade threw his touchdown pass to Carter. Southern cut the lead in half when Devon Benn ran for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:40 left in the second quarter.
Orozco's 42-yard field goal as time expired increased Grambling's lead to 17-7 at halftime.
SPECIAL TEAMS EDGE
The Tigers made 3 of 4 field goals and the Jaguars missed both of their field-goal attempts. After Southern took its only lead of the game in the fourth quarter, Calief Samon had a 41-yard kickoff return to set up the winning touchdown drive from the Jaguars 40.
"Our dominance in the kicking game really decided this football game," Fobbs said.
Grambling: The Tigers reinforced their standing as the pre-eminent program in the SWAC West. They have an opportunity to win their second consecutive SWAC title in the final SWAC championship game. Beginning next season, the title will go to the regular-season winner.
Southern: The Jaguars once again are bridesmaid to the Tigers, entering the Bayou Classic with a chance to win the West and leaving as the runner-up for the second consecutive season.
Grambling: The Tigers play East division champion Alcorn State in the SWAC championship game next Saturday in Houston.
Southern: The Jaguars season is over.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org
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