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Make 2022 your best year yet and let this Moon Reading decode your destiny with precise wisdom you can’t find anywhere else!

Jackson State confronts early challenges in pursuit of a third consecutive SWAC title — Andscape

Get This Before It Disappears!


Get This Before It Disappears!

Make 2022 your best year yet and let this Moon Reading decode your destiny with precise wisdom you can’t find anywhere else!

Despite a definitive season-opening win over South Carolina State at the Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge, Jackson State failed its first test in the Southwestern Athletic Conference, losing 28-10 on Sunday to East division rival Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic with self-inflicted wounds, shaky quarterback play and missed tackling on defense.

The loss ended Jackson State’s 19-game winning streak against SWAC teams dating back to the start of the 2021 season, and the Tigers’ opportunity to represent the SWAC East is no longer fully in their control, unlike the last two seasons.

In 2022, Florida A&M suffered an early-season loss to Jackson State that ultimately kept the Rattlers out of the SWAC championship game despite their 9-2 record. Jackson State now faces a similar situation.

“We got to prepare just like we prepared the previous two weeks. It’s the same deal, though. We got to eliminate the things that got us beat,” coach T.C. Taylor said during the SWAC media call Tuesday. “I challenge everybody, [our] talented coaches, our football team players, special teams. Everybody got challenged this week to come out here this week and be the football team that I know we could be.”

The reigning SWAC champion that had vaunted offensive, defensive and special teams units a season ago now has consistency problems with all three.

The Tigers’ offense was shut out in the first half Sunday and didn’t score its first point until late in the third quarter. The offense also turned the ball over with fumbles by quarterback Jason Brown and running back Irv Mulligan and was shut out of the first half of the game. 

“Our tempo wasn’t there. I just didn’t see the team that I saw Week 1, so I take complete ownership. We got to be better this week going into practice,” Taylor said. “That’s the biggest thing that I talked to my staff about. You know, for us, what we got to do is get back to playing fast, playing with some tempos, trust our cause and go with what we believe.”

Defensively Jackson State gave up 28 points within the first 20 minutes of the game. Special teams allowed a 96-yard kickoff return to open the game and later snapped the ball over the punter’s head, ruining a field goal attempt. 

“It’s a deal where we got to make some adjustment as far as personnel. Some guys just look disinterested in being out there and that’s on me, like I said, as a head coach to get that fixed,” Taylor said. “Special teams plays a big part in football games, and you saw that this weekend.”

Once Taylor took over the team in December 2022 following the Celebration Bowl, he immediately began recruiting to try to mitigate some issues ahead of the season. Besides having dozens of new team members playing together for the first time, the Tigers also have eight new coaches handpicked by Taylor: offensive coordinator Maurice Harris, co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jason Onyebuagu, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Jonathan Bradley, special teams coordinator and linebackers coach TyQuan Hammock, quarterbacks coach Quinn Billerman, cornerbacks coach Mario Magana Jr., wide receivers coach Bryson Abraham and defensive pass game coordinator and defensive backs coach Torenzo Quinn. Running backs coach Brandon Morton and tight ends coach Otis Riddley are the only holdovers from the previous staff.

Taylor and his staff recruited the No. 2 ranked top FCS recruiting class and the top recruiting class from historically Black colleges and universities, adding more than 40 players via high school recruits and the transfer portal, including Power 5 transfers Brown (Virginia Tech) and Seven McGee (Oregon), who are current starters for Jackson State. The Tigers had to replace 10 players who transferred to Colorado with former coach Deion Sanders.

The Tigers returned roughly 19 players from last year’s roster out of 96 current team members, most who were role players last season. Senior defensive end Antonio Doyle, who spent last season as a backup, has a new role as defensive team leader, replacing Aubrey Miller, the 2022 SWAC defensive player of the year, who graduated and moved on to pro football.

“As a leader on this defense … I need to come out with better energy, spark the defense up, making plays out the gate, and make sure we don’t stay flat,” Doyle said. 

After losing most of their wide receiving core from last season, with top receivers Kevin Coleman, Willie Gaines, Shane Hooks and Travis Hunter transferring to Power 5 programs, this season the Tigers have used the “replacement by collective” strategy, employing multiple receivers to replace the production they lost. Eight players tallied receptions against South Carolina State and eight players tallied receptions against Florida A&M.

Redshirt junior Rico Powers has 214 receiving yards in two games, already surpassing his total of 213 last season.

“For offense, we just have to come out strong, come out with energy.” Powers said. “Our goal is to dominate no matter who we play, so every week that’s what we are going to do. We going to dominate, nothing different, we just have to come out and be us.”

After being named starting quarterback Brown appeared to be the signal-caller for Jackson State, passing for 356 yards and three touchdowns against South Carolina State. It seemed as though the Tigers had found their heir apparent to Shedeur Sanders, who threw for 3,732 passing yards and 40 touchdowns and was named SWAC offensive player of the year in 2022.

However, Brown struggled against Florida A&M before injuring his throwing arm in the second quarter. He took fewer than five snaps in the second half and was replaced by Louisiana-Lafayette transfer Zy McDonald. Jackson State then scored 10 unanswered points, including a 66-yard touchdown pass from McDonald to Powers. McDonald finished the game 10-for-14 with a team-high 149 passing yards.

According to Taylor, the program is currently waiting on X-rays for Brown but expects him to play the next game. When asked about the possibility of incorporating McDonald and playing a two-quarterback offense, Taylor didn’t shut down the idea.

“That’s one of the things we’ll work on this week. Get out there, practice, get all that stuff hashed out,” Taylor said. “Kudos to Zy – you know he came out there, he fought well, he showed some toughness out there. … He got us up and down the field [and] did just what we asked him to do. But that’s some things we’ll work out this week as a staff and make a decision going into this week.” 

Jackson State will be on the road again for two additional weeks, facing Southern, another SWAC rival, on Saturday. On Sept. 16, the Tigers will face an out-of-conference opponent in Texas State, which upset Baylor on Saturday for the program’s first win over a Power 5 opponent.

“When you talk about winning championships, you got to learn to win on the road, you know, and that’s what I talked about with our football team,” Taylor said. “You got to bring the energy each and every day on the road. It’s a tough schedule. 

“But there’s no excuses. It is up to me as the head coach to get this football team ready to play. … The schedule is the schedule.”

Despite the loss, Taylor still saw some positives in how his team played and has takeaways heading into Jackson State’s matchup against Southern, a rematch of the 2022 SWAC championship game. 

“They came back in the second half and they fought,” Taylor said. “We could have easily laid down and FAMU could have ran it up on us, but they came back and fought, played with energy. That’s what we do. That’s what we’re going to do. We’ll get back here. Next week, we get ready to go down to Baton Rouge and we’ll take care of business.”

Mia Berry is the senior HBCU writer for Andscape and covers everything from sports to student-led protests. She is a Detroit native (What up Doe!), long-suffering Detroit sports fan and Notre Dame alumna who randomly shouts, “Go Irish.”


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