Shedeur Sanders threw two touchdowns in the second half to break open a tight game and lead Jackson State to a 26-12 win over Alabama State in Montgomery.
The post-game dramatics weren’t enough to overshadow an otherwise entertaining game.
Homecoming is more than a big deal on HBCU campuses. Alumni look forward to returning to the one place where the totality of their being was prioritized and supported. Where being Black did not result in stares and provided a safe haven from the racist attitudes found on non-HBCU campuses.
Saturday’s festivities in Montgomery started early. Grills, music, and vendors were in full effect by 11:00 am. Anybody and everybody that has attended HBCU homecoming games regularly knows to arrive early because traffic will be brutal. How Jackson State failed to leave early enough to avoid the gridlock is a mystery.
It was the Tigers’ late arrival that caused some of the post-game dramatics. JSU head coach Deion Sanders claimed his pre-game routine of circling the field was met with some colorful language from the Bama State players. Whatever was said as he passed through, be certain that a timely arrival would have prevented it. What he did is akin to an opposing team dancing on the logo at Florida State. Hell attempting to walk through the cheerleaders or the marching band lines at an HBCU would have caused more of a ruckus.
Slow starts have become somewhat of a trademark of the Tigers. Saturday was no different. Both of their drives stalled near midfield.
The Hornets made the most of the gift of a short field driving 57 yards for a touchdown. Dematrius Davis pass found Kisean Johnson in the front of the end zone for a 19-yard score.
Sanders and company came alive in the second quarter. The sophomore quarterback laid a perfect 35-yard pass over the shoulder and into the hands of Willie Gaines.
Jackson State’s defense came alive as well shutting down the Hornets to the tune of 4 yards of offense.
Both defenses dominated the first half of the third quarter. Bama State held J-State to 25 yards on the visitor’s first two possessions of the second half. The rush pressured Sanders to throw a pass into the arms of Hornets DB Keenan Isaac at midfield.
Isaac returned the pick 18 yards to give the Hornets’ offense another short field to operate from. Myles Crawley, who replaced the injured Davis, moved the ball into the red zone with a 21-yard strike to Jeremiah Hixon.
Bama State got to the 3 before the Tigers’ Jurriente Davis made his presence felt. Davis tackled Santo Dunn 3 yards short of a first down and pressured Crawley into an incompletion on third down to force Bama State head coach to make a decision -kick it or go for it. Robinson chose the former.
Freshman kicker Nathaniel Eichner has struggled at times this season. He missed two field goals against Prairie View A&M and the point-after-try earlier in the game. His struggles prompted Coach Robinson to reiterate his comments from the PV game, “If you can’t kick, you can’t win.”
The Hornets’ inability to sustain drives forced the defense to stay out on the field longer. It showed on the Tigers’ third possession.
Sanders carved up the Hornets’ secondary completing 4 of 6 passes for 46 yards including a 25-yard touchdown to Kevin Coleman Jr.
Bama State cut into the 17-6 deficit on the first possession of the final quarter thanks largely to a 49-yard kick-off return by Hixon. Crawley hooked up with Kisean Johnson for a 19-yard gain to move even deeper into Tigers territory. Jacory Merritt exploited a rare opening in the Tigers’ front seven for a 14-yard run. The sophomore gained just 18 yards on the day. The Hornets’ backfield gained a season-low 39 yards.
Offensive lineman Keeundra Salter capped the drive with his first touchdown by falling on Crawley’s fumble in the endzone.
Trailing by five, Coach Robinson had to make another decision -attempt the PAT kick or go for the two-point conversion. Given Eichner’s struggles, it wasn’t hard to understand why the coach chose the latter. A successful conversion would have closed the gap to 17-14. The attempt by Ja’Won Howell was stopped by the Tigers.
It was show and prove for Sanders on the Tigers’ first drive of the fourth. He completed 5-of-6 passes for 46 yards and rushed for another 26 on the 78-yard drive. Once inside the red zone Sanders wasted no time finding JD Martin with a swing pass. Martin followed his blockers around the edge for a 16-yard score.
J-State added a field goal to capitalize on an interception by Isaiah Bolden at midfield.
Time ran out on the Hornets dampening the homecoming celebration.
Coaches meeting at midfield to shake hands is customary. Hugging, not so much. Coach Sanders’ attempt to give Coach Robinson an “Obama bro-hug” was out of place and an invasion of personal space. Coach Sanders’ should have respected Coach Robinson’s wishes when he warded off the embrace. Instead, Coach Sanders reacted aggressively. His reaction at that moment was in stark contrast to his post-game recall of the incident.
What is SWAC
Coaching for two years at a SWAC-member institution doesn’t automatically earn the distinction of being SWAC no more than living in New York City for a few seasons makes someone a New Yorker. There are lots of coaches that spent their careers coaching in the SWAC and ensuring the players made the most of the opportunities given to them.
“I’mma shake your hand and go on,” said Coach Robinson in response to the attempted hug.”I’m going to always be respectful and respect the game. You know you got the great guys W.C. Gorden, Eddie Robinson those guys, Marino Casem…I’m living on the shoulders of the SWAC.
Being called SWAC is a distinction that’s earned over years as a player or coach. Coaches like Coach Robinson mentioned and their contemporaries. Some of college football’s greatest coaches earned that legendary status with a lot of hard work going up against other greats. Greats like
Grambling’s Eddie Robinson (52 years, 408–165–15, 17 SWAC Titles, 9 Black College National Championships, 200 players sent to the NFL, 5 NFL Hall of Fame Inductees,
Alcorn State’s Marino “The Godfather” Casem (22 years at the helm, 132-65-8, 7 SWAC Titles, 4 Black College National Championships),
Jackson State’s W.C. “Jazzman” Gorden (15 years as head coach and 24 years at the school, 119-48-5, 8 SWAC Titles, 65 players drafted by the NFL, 28 consecutive SWAC wins
Prairie View A&M’s Billy Nicks (111-27-5, 8 SWAC titles, 5 Black College National Championships, 15 NFL draft picks, 1 NFL Hall of Fame Inductee), and
Southern’s Arnette “Art” Mumford (25 years, 169-57-14, 11 SWAC Titles, 5 Black College National Championships, 35 All-Americans).
In answer to Coach Sanders’ question, you are not SWAC. You did your thing at Florida State. Had they extended a coaching offer to you this question would never have come up. The willingness with which he brought up the money and resources offered to some of the schools in the conference is tacky. Gifts from the heart or in earnest aren’t meant to be worn as a badge. That’s self-promotion.
The self-promotion didn’t end with the flaunting of the gifts. Coach Sanders went on to infer that his antics during the week were the reason for the game’s sellout. The sellout might have had more to do with the game’s location being that it was driving distance from the four largest alumni organizations for both schools. Add to that, both teams had winning records.
Give it a decade or two Coach Sanders and the body will revisit your application.
- Shedeur Sanders 30-46-1, 332 yards, 3 Tds
- Sy’veon Wilkerson 136 total yards, 19 rushes – 88 yards, 4 rec. 48 yards
- Willie Gaines 4 rec. 65 yards, 1 TD
- DJ Stevens 3 rec. 52 yards
- JD martin 4 rec. 36 yards, 1 TD
- Kevin Coleman Jr. 3 rec. 39 yards, 1 TD
- Jurriente Davis 7 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 pass break up, 1 QB hurry
- Isaiah Bolden 6 tackles, 1 int.
- Aubrey Miller Jr. 6 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 pass break up
- Colton Adams 10 solo tackles, 18 total, 2 pass breakups and 1 QB hurry
- Demaurez Bellamy 10 tackles, 2 QB hurries
- Keenan Isaac 4 tackles, 1 interception, 3 pass breakups
- Kisean Johnson 4 rec. 49 yards, 1 TD
- Jeremiah Hixon 6 rec. 42 yards
All photos by Jason McDonald, JM Photography for CORE360 Sports