Jackson, Miss. – As first-year Grambling State coach Hue Jackson led his troops into the locker room trailing 21–17 to the SWAC’s most electrifying program, Jackson State coach Deion Sanders was rightfully annoyed. JSU had not won at home against Grambling since 1999, despite beating GSU in an unprecedented spring campaign in 2011. After one half, JSU gave Grambling confidence.
“He [Sanders] went in there screaming first,” said JSU quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who committed the fumble that led to GSU’s first-half defensive score. Sanders himself could not remember what he told his team. “I was so 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 something no other team this season had been able to do against the SWAC’s top defensive unit, a modest group that had allowed just six total points in its previous two games. The G-Men scored one offensive touchdown and a defensive grab and field goal in 41 seconds in addition to a field goal.
Jackson State fans decked out in a wave of red for the 2022 WC Gorden Classic had seen a first half of Tiger football that just wasn’t up to the program’s standards and certainly not indicative of what the winningest coach in history would have had of the program (Gordon). I wanted to see inside Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
The second half was a different story. JSU’s defense was ferocious, 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 a 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, maintained its thunder and found its rhythm on six consecutive second-half drives. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who finished with six touchdowns (including a career-high two on the ground), threw for 357 yards while finishing five yards short of his career-high in passing yards.
“We didn’t 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 hits 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,” said Sanders, a sophomore. “One of the most mature receivers in the group.”
WC Gorden Offensive MVP also credited running back and SWAC Newcomer of the Week Sy’Veon Wilkerson for his role in the Tigers’ victory Saturday. Sanders told reporters Tuesday that he expected a heavy dose of Wilkerson, and that statement came true.
“He [Wilkerson] is great at reading the hole … he can help you save,” Shedear Sanders said of Wilkerson’s game.
While Jackson State is enjoying another win in the ’22 season, the elder Sanders is still looking for an overall dominant effort from his team. Yes, the Tigers beat the Rattlers in their first game in commanding fashion. Even then there were corrections. And JSU scored just one touchdown against Tennessee State.
For a team looking to win another SWAC title and return to the Celebration Bowl, Deion Sanders believes complete dominance is the only option for his team.
“We work hard in practice,” Sanders said. “It is difficult. I have high expectations and I will not give up my expectations for them [players]… to dominate and go to the pros.”
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