JACKSON, Miss. – Jackson State coach Deion Sanders drew five circles around the most damning stats on the final stat sheet in the Tigers’ 34-14 loss to Southern University on Saturday night.
He was mad. And embarrassed. And he didn’t mind letting everyone know.
“We got our butts kicked in every phase of the game. Glaring things. Fifty-nine rushes for 294 yards. We had 25 rushes for 66 yards. Glaring things. Forty-two minutes time of possession to our 17:11. Glaring things,” he said. “Third-down conversions 14-of-20, we’re 1-of-8. Glaring things. Another blocked punt. Glaring things.
“We came out flat from the top, and I don’t think we ever recovered. Glaring things. We played with no passion. I don’t feel like this is who we are. I take full responsibility for every darn thing that transpired out there today.
“I gotta do better. We gotta prepare them better. We had two darn weeks and we still didn’t look like we were prepared. We looked like we just didn’t have it. They played with passion. They played with intensity. We just didn’t have it, and that’s on me.”
When he took the job, Sanders knew it would take time to change Jackson State’s culture, mindset and roster. Until those things occurred, he understood there would be peaks and valleys for the program.
Southern’s eighth consecutive win over Jackson State before a national TV audience on ESPN and a crowd of 22,000 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium is part of the process as Sanders tries to turn around a program that won only 23 games in the previous seven seasons. Saturday’s loss was Jackson State’s second straight defeat after losing to Alabama State on March 20.
Football is a game of repetition, rhythm and routine. Jackson State has had little of that during a spring season that was created after the pandemic resulted in the fall season being canceled.
Neither have the other teams in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, but they’re not trying to put in new offensive and defensive schemes without the benefit of spring practice or an offseason.
Two of Jackson State’s games have been postponed and they were playing for the first time since March 20, just like Southern.
“We’ve been through a lot of adversity this year and we’ve guaranteed ourselves a winning record,” said Southern coach Dawson Odums. “Our players, their parents and our coaches have a lot to be proud of.”
Jackson State also had an opponent switched, facing Mississippi Valley State instead of Prairie View A&M on March 14. Prairie View had to pause its program because of COVID-19.
“We have to do a better job getting the information that we have to them more readily and easily,” said Sanders, “so they can understand it and perform it.”
For now, Sanders understands some opponents will simply overwhelm Jackson State.
That’s what Southern did, outgaining Jackson State 474-309. Southern had seven plays of 20 yards or more, including runs of 20, 23, 24 and 33 yards.
Southern took the opening kickoff and 70 yards in 11 plays for a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Devon Benn.
The Jaguars, leading 17-7 at halftime, pushed the lead to 20-7 on a 49-yard field goal Cesar Barajas in the third quarter. Benn added a 20-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 27-7 with 4:21 left in the third quarter.
The reality is this is very likely the time to beat Sanders and Jackson State. The best recruiting class in FCS, led by Sanders son, Shedeur, one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, is coming in the fall.
Several freshmen will compete for starting spots and the team is expected to add several other starters via the transfer portal. There’s a good chance the team Jackson State fans see now will bear little resemblance to the team Jackson State fields in the fall.
“I told all of them there was going to come a point in this game where adversity was going to hit,” said Sanders, “and we were going to see if we really believe and we didn’t.”
Asked if he had any positives, Sanders said, “Yes, the game is over.”