SWAC notebook: Jackson State riding high with season-opening win post-Deion Sanders era
Jackson State didn’t wait long to dispel any doubts about life after coach Prime.
The Tigers got the jump in Week Zero with a resounding 37-7 victory against South Carolina State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge in Atlanta, avenging a 2021 Celebration Bowl loss.
The Tigers, who have an even bigger game coming up Saturday against Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami, don’t appear ready to fall very far after losing coach Deion Sanders to Colorado. Florida A&M was a clear pick to win the SWAC East in the league’s preseason poll.
The victory also should raise some eyebrows in Baton Rouge since Jackson State comes to Southern on Sept. 9.
Sanders won two consecutive SWAC titles at Jackson State before handing the program to T.C. Taylor, who looks to have his team playing at a high level right off the bat.
“The offense played pretty good; the defense was very physical; special teams were solid,” Taylor said. “The execution was right where we wanted it to be. We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’ll take a win on a stage like that.”
Jackson State fell 22 seconds short of recording a shutout, allowing the Bulldogs 201 yards while piling up 494 of its own.
The Tigers led 17-0 at the half and started the blowout with a touchdown Taylor really enjoyed seeing early in the second half. Quarterback Jason Brown, who completed 26 of 30 passes for 356 yards and three scores without an interception, beat a fourth-down blitz with a 21-yard touchdown pass to DJ Stevens.
He played a great game. He was solid protecting the football,” Taylor said of Stevens. “That’s something we stressed the last couple of weeks going into the game. He showed some leadership when he called the team up to talk about finishing the game.
“The one I love was the fourth-down deal, to take a hit like that in the face and get the ball off for a touchdown to DJ Stevens. Excited about what he brings to the table.”
Taylor said it was running back Irv Mulligan who set the tone with 109 yards rushing on 14 carries, including a 46-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Jackson State has beaten Florida A&M each of the last two seasons in the Orange Blossom Classic, which has decided the East Division title in the Southwestern Athletic Conference. FAMU coach Willie Simmons said his team is well aware of the implications but that it’s still only one game.