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Hue Jackson’s Grambling State closes out State Fair Classic win with exclamation point

The former Cleveland Browns head coach saw his team break a five-game losing streak vs. Prairie View A&M at the Cotton Bowl.

Grambling State head coach Hue Jackson
Grambling State head coach Hue Jackson (center right) raises the State Fair Classic trophy after beating Prairie View A&M at the Cotton Bowl, Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Dallas. Grambling State defeated Prairie View A&M 35-20.(Elías Valverde II / Staff Photographer)

By Greg McKenna

The halftime “Battle of the Bands” between the Marching Storm of Prairie View and Grambling State’s Tiger Marching Band had been the most competitive aspect of The State Fair Classic over the last couple seasons.

While the bands delivered again in the annual showdown between the two Historically Black Colleges and Universities — both performing and playfully jeering each other postgame — that wasn’t the case Saturday night at the Cotton Bowl. After being outscored 58-24 over the previous two matchups, Grambling State (3-2, 2-0 SWAC) kept the ball for 40 minutes, including most of the fourth quarter, as Hue Jackson’s team broke a five-game losing streak to Prairie View (2-3, 2-1 SWAC) with a 35-20 win.

“We finally got the curse of losing to Prairie View behind us,” said Jackson, sporting a red-and-black striped blazer and matching pants.

After going 3-8 in Jackson’s first season, Grambling State is tied for the lead in the SWAC East with Southern, the reigning division champions. The former Cleveland Browns head coach told his team he was excited about finally bringing The State Fair Classic Trophy back to north-central Louisiana.


“But there’s a bigger trophy out there for us,” he said.

His team could have taken a knee when it took over on Prairie View’s 3-yard line with 43 seconds left and Bubba McDowell’s team out of timeouts, but Jackson let Floyd Chalk scamper into the end zone to provide the exclamation point.

“We really talked today about putting on a show,” Jackson said. “I think the more we put on a show, the more people are going to show up and see these guys.”

Grambling State now leads the series 28-10 since both programs played their first State Fair Classic against one another in 1985. Prairie View has played in all but two editions since 1930, five years after two HBCUs first played at the Texas State Fair.

A year after Grambling threw for just 119 yards, freshman quarterback Myles Crawley went 25 of 40 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Both scores were caught by Lyndon Rash, one of eight Grambling State players with a catch and one of three with at least six receptions for over 60 yards.


But Jackson knew dominating time of possession would be key to quieting Prairie View’s rushing attack, which he said was the second-best in the conference. Grambling State used six rushers to outgain Prairie View 210-142 in yards on the ground.

With both rosters combining for almost 20 Dallas-area players on their respective rosters, former Duncanville quarterback Trazon Connley got the start for a second straight year for Prairie View. He couldn’t rally his team late, however, as Prairie View failed to convert a fourth-and-one at Grambling’s 29-yard line before Connley was intercepted by Cedric Anderson midway through the fourth.

Junior lineman Javon Carter led Grambling’s defense with two sacks and 2½ tackles for loss.

“He’s somebody I make sure is in the game in very key moments,” Jackson said.

A year after allowing Prairie View to spring out to a 27-0 halftime lead, Grambling State scored on each of its four possessions and took a 16-10 lead into the locker room.


Grambling’s first two trips to the red zone were derailed by penalties, but Crawley found Rash for a 12-yard score with just over a minute left in the first half. Prairie View had first and goal less than 20 seconds later after a 41-yard deep ball from Connley to Tre’jon Spiller, but Grambling State’s defense held and Prairie View missed a field goal wide-left from 22 yards.

Putting on a show: See photos from Grambling State’s State Fair Classic win vs. Prairie View A&M

The Prairie View A&M marching band enters the Cotton Bowl before the State Fair Classic...
This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

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