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Jackson State football

by John Doe
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Jackson State football

Despite the 31–10 defeat at the hands of South Carolina State, the future for the head coach and the Tigers is still bright ahead. The Tigers compete in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).

Jackson State football

In 1958, the program gained national recognition after entering the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). The program had its highest level of success throughout the 1980s. In his eight seasons as head coach, W. C. Gorden guided the Tigers to eight conference titles, including four in a row from 1985 to 1988 and two more in 1990. With 16 conference titles since 1958, Jackson State has established itself as a perennially strong program among historically black colleges and universities. Lem Barney, Walter Payton, Robert Brazile, and Jackie Slater are 93 professional football players. Only 13 other college football programs, at any level, have produced as many Pro Football Hall of Famers as Jackson State University has done.

ATLANTA — Atlanta is home to the Georgia Dome, which was built in the early 1900s. For Jackson State, the field inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a strange place to be on Saturday as confetti was sprinkled over the 40 and 50-yard lines of the area. Coming into the 2021 Celebration Bowl, the Tigers had won nine straight games in 84 days, returning to the Tigers’ 24–17 victory against Delta State on Sept. 25, which put them in first place in the conference.

Each of those victories, which included a combined average margin of victory of almost 19 points, resulted in a bigger show of national focus, recognition, and increased interest in JSU football and the HBCU football scene as a whole. When Tigers head coach Deion Sanders was unable to lead the squad due to difficulties from his foot surgery, the team’s “I Believe” mission continued to be in force, despite the group’s setbacks. Alternatively, as Sanders puts it, naysayers started to transform into believers with each victory.

However, on the third Saturday in December, as the Tigers prepared to enter the Christmas season and the start of the college football bowl season, they did not get the celebratory champagne baths or the postgame chuckles they would have had if they had won. South Carolina State University was one of them. When Sanders and the Tigers left the field after losing 31–10 to the Bulldogs, they were carrying the trophy in celebration of the Bulldogs’ first win in the legendary bowl game and marking the school’s sixth national title in the history of black college football. When there was a press conference after the game, Sanders said, “We gave it our all, but we got our butts kicked.” “We were a touch sluggish, we didn’t have the fire in our be, and was… our defense has never played as well as they did today…”

 Jackson State football

“However defense occurred today… “I know how to repair it, and I am going to fix it,” says the author. Throughout the season, even when the Tigers’ rushing game failed, and their passing offense was stunted, the Tigers’ defense was always the great equalizer, the game-changer, and the savior when it meant the most. The Bulldogs defeated Jackson State by 21 points, which has significant importance for the program and the following season in 2021.

Sanders, who was appointed as the program’s 21st head coach on Sept. 21, 2020, led a team that allowed just one of its opponents, Texas Southern, to score a total of 21 points in a game while limiting all of the other opponents to less than 21 points. They have also prevented three opposition teams from scoring in the fourth quarter of games this season.

With Sanders’ slogan for his players to be “smart, tough, quick, and disciplined,” the “Dark Side” defense has proven dominating in combination with the team’s other strengths. Additionally, the Tigers’ defense surrendered 21 points in the second half alone while allowing total offense, passing yards, and rushing yards than they had let on average in the previous game. The Bulldogs’ wide receiver Shaquan Davis celebrated one of his three touchdowns with the iconic Deion Sanders “Primetime Shuffle,” The Tigers lost by 21 points overall.

Three of South Carolina State’s touchdown drives began within Jackson State’s 20-yard line due to the Tigers’ mistakes and inefficiency on offense throughout their five scoring opportunities. The Bulldogs’ field goal came after a drive that began at the Tigers’ 45-yard line, while their last score of the game went on a movement that began at their seven-yard line.

When it comes to various things, Sanders excels at keeping promises—which goes from the Tigers’ dismal spring season to their historic run—winning games, inciting change, challenging the status quo, and becoming legendary are all things Sanders does very well. It is encouraging that not only did Sanders express optimism about the future of JSU’s program following the game, but the Tigers’ signing of five-star wide receiver Travis Hunter, the No. 1 recruit in Sports Illustrated’s 99 rankings who transferred from Florida State during the early signing period on Wednesday, also indicates that Sanders is committed to his mission.

He feels he has a goal that will transform the narrative around HCBU football, and he believes that Jackson State will be at the vanguard of accomplishing it. Jackson State (11–1, 9–0) finished with an 11–1 record for the first time in the program’s history. Sanders attained a record-setting milestone in 12 months that famous JSU coaches like W.C. Gorden, James “Big Daddy” Carson, Robert Hill, Robert Hughes, and Rick Comedy had never done in their combined careers. That, along with a SWAC championship, the program’s first berth in the Celebration Bowl, college football’s top recruit, another outstanding recruiting class, loads of media exposure, and a national spotlight, ensures that the future in Jackson stays bright.

Even though Sanders and the Tigers did not become the second SWAC club to win the Celebration Bowl on Saturday, he successfully restored confidence to a school that had not had a winning season since the 2013 season. While Jackson State suffered a setback in what many expected to be a classic “David vs.” fight in which the Tigers would prevail, it is possible that this defeat was the greatest thing that could have happened to the Tigers, whether they realized it or not. Moreover, not only will it ignite a fire in the minds of returning players over the summer, but it is already burning brightly in the head of Sanders as we advance. A minor setback in the process of making a huge comeback.

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