Jackson, Miss. – As Grambling State first-year coach Hue Jackson led his troops to the locker room trailing 21–17 to the SWAC’s most electrifying program, Jackson State coach Deion Sanders was rightfully annoyed. JSU had not earned a victory at home against Grambling since 1999 despite defeating GSU in the unprecedented spring ’21 campaign. After one half, JSU had given Grambling an air of confidence.
“He [Sanders] came in there yelling first,” says JSU quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who committed the fumble that led to GSU’s defensive score in the first half. Sanders himself couldn’t remember what he told his team. “I was that mad,” he added after the game.
Whatever call to action Sanders gave his players after he finished yelling in the locker room, it worked. Jackson State limited GSU to one touchdown late in the fourth quarter en route to a 66–24 victory.
In the first half, Grambling accomplished feats that no other team this season had been able to do against the SWAC’s leading defensive unit, a stingy group that had only allowed six total points in its previous two games. The G-Men scored one offensive touchdown and a scoop-and-score on defense in a matter of 41 seconds in addition to a field goal.
Jackson State fans, dressed in a wave of red for the 2022 W.C. Gorden Classic, had watched a first half of Tiger football that was simply not at the program’s standard and certainly not indicative of what the winningest coach in program history (Gordon) would have wanted to see inside Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
It was a different story in the second half. JSU’s defense was feisty, forcing the G-Men into four punts, a fumble, a possession that ended with a turnover on downs and an interception. Linebacker Aubrey Miller, who was named the game’s defensive MVP, had nine tackles, including one for loss. “It was a tale of two halves,” Sanders said.
JSU’s offense, a unit that lacked rhythm and consistency in its win against Tennessee State in the Southern Heritage Classic, retained its thunder and found its groove scoring on six consecutive drives in the second half. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who finished with six touchdowns (including a career-high two on the ground), threw for 357 yards while finishing five yards shy of his career-high in passing yards.
“We did not want a repeat of last week at TSU,” the signal caller and coach’s son said after the game.
The younger Sanders was downright unstoppable. His four scores through the air went to two of JSU’s emerging wideouts in Dallas Daniels—who had three touchdown receptions—along with an 86-yard bomb to Willie Gaines early in the fourth quarter.
“[Dallas] is a dog,” Sanders, a sophomore, said. “One of the most mature receivers in the group.”
The W.C. Gorden Offensive MVP also credited running back and SWAC Newcomer of the Week Sy’Veon Wilkerson for his role in the Tigers’ victory on Saturday. Sanders told reporters Tuesday to expect a heavy dose of Wilkerson, and that statement came to fruition.
“He [Wilkerson] is great at reading the hole … he can help bail you out,” Shedeur Sanders said of Wilkerson’s play.
While Jackson State enjoys another victory in the ‘22 season, the elder Sanders is still looking for a complete, all-around dominant effort from his team. Yes, the Tigers defeated the Rattlers in their first game in commanding fashion. Even then, there were corrections to be made. And JSU posted just one touchdown against Tennessee State.
For a team seeking to win another SWAC title and return to the Celebration Bowl, Deion Sanders believes complete dominance is the only option for his squad.
“We work hard in practice,” Sanders said. “It’s tough. I have a tough expectation and I am not going to relinquish my expectation for them [players]… to dominate and go to the pros.”
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