NEW ORLEANS — With one final chance to make his case for a more permanent job, Southern interim football coach Dawson Odums got what he absolutely had to have Saturday: A win in the Bayou Classic.
Now, his fate rests in the hands of Athletic Director William Broussard.
Odums and the Jaguars took a commanding lead in the second half against Grambling, then held on for a 38-33 win over archrival Grambling in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
If that was enough for Odums to take over full-time, Broussard wasn’t saying.
He did offer this much: Odums won’t be the only candidate to replace Stump Mitchell, who was reassigned after two-plus seasons and a 6-18 record at SU.
“We’ll proceed to a national search next week,” Broussard said Saturday. “That will give me an opportunity to sit and talk with coach Odums and kind of do a formal review of the season and his performance as the head coach.”
Odums went 4-5 during his nine-game tenure. He took control of the team after its 6-0 home loss to Mississippi Valley State on Sept. 13, then led the Jaguars to three wins over their next four games.
But Southern also took a four-game skid into the Bayou Classic.
“I’ve been the head coach at Southern University all year. They didn’t give me interim responsibilities,” Odums said.
“I just feel that I want to be the head coach at Southern University, and I just feel that these young men showed why they like my leadership. They play hard, and they play for 60 minutes. But I know that’s not my call.”
Is it too early, then, for Broussard to make it for him?
“I’m sure he will apply,” Broussard said, referring to Odums. “But this was pretty much the agreement all along, that we would do it this way after we completed the season.”
Saturday’s Bayou Classic drew an announced crowd of 45,980 — a far cry from 2000-04, when the average attendance was 70,198, but larger than the past two seasons.
The 2010 game, a 38-17 Grambling win, drew 43,494 fans.
A crowd of 40,715 watched last year’s game, which Grambling won 36-12.
The best-attended game in Bayou Classic history was in 1994, when Southern won the second of eight straight meetings 34-7 as 76,641 people watched.
Dray’s big day
In the first quarter of Saturday’s game, Grambling sacked and stripped Southern’s Dray Joseph, then recovered the fumble and took a 14-0 lead.
His receivers also dropped a handful of passes early on.
Obviously, it was not the start Joseph had hoped for.
But the junior quarterback bounced back in a big way.
Joseph tied a school record with five touchdown passes in a Bayou Classic game (Quincy Richard also threw for five touchdowns in 2003, though the overall record belongs to Grambling quarterback Bruce Eugene, who had six touchdown passes in the ’05 game).
“I’ve seen Dray do a lot of maturing the last three years, and I’m happy for him to have such a big game,” left tackle Chris Browne said “I’m just so happy we were able to get a win here in the Bayou Classic.”
Joseph also threw for 284 yards. Joseph finished his junior season with 2,511 yards and 25 touchdown passes, ranking first in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in that category.
It was his first season as a full-time starter. In the past two years, Joseph split time with Jeremiah McGinty and J.P. Douglas.
“He was throwing the ball well tonight, and guys (were) dropping the ball,” Odums said. “He didn’t get frustrated. That just shows that our team was growing up.”
Mixed bag for Williams
Joseph’s counterpart, Grambling sophomore D.J. Williams, had something of an up-and-down day.
A year ago, Williams — the son of coach Doug Williams — capped his freshman season with a sparkling three-touchdown, no-interception performance in a 36-12 win over SU.
He struggled this season, splitting time with Frank Rivers.
Heading into Saturday’s game, Williams had two touchdown passes all season. He matched that total in the first nine minutes as the Tigers grabbed an early lead — but Williams later struggled. Though he matched Joseph with 284 passing yards, Williams also threw a key interception, and Rivers finished the game.
Williams completed 22 of 46 passes.
To Southern wide receiver Charles Hawkins, a New Orleans native who scored a career-high three touchdowns in his final college game.