Jackson State defeats Southern University to capture back-to-back SWAC titles
The Jackson State Tigers program completes its first unbeaten regular season in school history
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Shedeur Sanders threw for four touchdowns and Jackson State routed Southern 43-24 on Saturday in the Southwest Athletic Conference championship, hours before Colorado hired father Deion Sanders away from the Tigers.
Colorado athletic director Rick George announced Saturday night that the school had hired Sanders as head coach after three seasons with the FCS program.
JSU (12-0) quashed any questions about Sanders’ future being a distraction by completing the first unbeaten regular season in school history and claiming its second consecutive SWAC championship. The Tigers’ top-ranked defense set the tone by quickly pouncing on the Jaguars for three turnovers in eight plays in the first quarter.
Aubrey Miller Jr., the SWAC defensive player of the year, led the defense to an exceptional effort as he totaled one sack and two tackles for loss.
JSU came in as the top-rated defense in the FCS, and it showed exactly why by forcing five turnovers, one of which was a fumble that junior defensive back Antonio Doyle Jr. returned to the 1.
Shedeur Sanders, the Hall of Fame coach’s son, and the Tigers easily converted takeaways into a 26-0 lead after 15 minutes, a run boosted by Sy’veon Wilkerson’s 1-yard TD run two plays after Herman Smith III’s 37-yard interception return. Two fumbles created chances for Sanders to hit Shane Hooks for TD passes of 14 and 40 yards and two-point conversions to Kevin Coleman Jr.
Sanders’ 14-yard TD pass to Coleman made it 33-7 at halftime, but Southern (7-5) didn’t quit and even got within 36-24 late in the third quarter on Glendon McDaniel’s 42-yard TD run.
Sanders, the SWAC’s offensive player of the year, completed 31 of 44 passes for 305 yards. Hooks caught five passes for 98 yards and Wilkerson rushed 15 times for 61 yards.
For their efforts, Sanders and Miller were awarded the offensive and defensive MVPs of the game.
McDaniel was 15 of 34 passing for 220 yards and a TD for Southern.
“I thought Glendon did some great things,” Dooley said.
The two teams slugged it out on the offensive end in terms of total yardage. Jackson State racked up 445 total yards to Southern’s 412.
Reports swirled before the game that Deion Sanders would announce his departure after the game, following his acknowledgement earlier this week of an offer from the school and talks with other FBS programs about vacancies.
Colorado’s board of regents called a special meeting for Sunday but hadn’t commented on any candidates taking over the Buffaloes until George’s announcement.
Neither Sanders nor JSU players spoke to reporters afterward. A SWAC spokesman said the team had proceeded to go to campus for a team meeting, during which the coach told his team he had accepted the job at Colorado.
Sanders told players he would coach the Tigers in the Celebration Bowl, the championship for historically Black college football programs. He added, “I’m going to finish what we started, we’re going to dominate and to that end and that conclusion, and we will move on.”
Sanders said he would meet with some of his players to dissuade them from entering the transfer portal “and die in the portal. I don’t want that to happen.”
Southern University coach Eric Dooley spoke about what “Coach Prime” has done for the SWAC after the game and how appreciative he was of Sanders’ efforts.
“I was able to shake his hand and hug Deion and tell him he had a good football team,” said Dooley.
The Tigers will face Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.
The Tigers’ victory improved Sanders to 27-5 as coach of the FCS program and came days after he was named SWAC coach of the year for the second consecutive season.
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