Before the Jackson State football team enters Hard Rock Stadium through a tunnel near the West End – to the tune of the show’s famous song “get ready” Played by The Sonic Boom of the South Tigers coach Deion Sanders has looked into the eyes of his players and created the mood for the 2022 Orange Blossom Classic.
Adversity will come. Check it out at the door, Sanders said.
After the disappointing loss at the ’21 Celebration Bowl, JSU’s main theme during the holiday season was dominance-In every aspect of the game. But to achieve this mission, Sanders had to make adjustments, Introducing new additions to his coaching staff Beside Add another star recruitment class of players to tackle the team’s biggest weaknesses such as the offensive line.
Even with the structural changes, the JSU team that dominated Florida A&M in one of the most anticipated HBCU games of the season was a show that was driven far beyond conquering the Rattlers on the grid. For 60 minutes, Tiger players and coaches used the game as the ultimate escape from reality: a devastating water crisis that has paralyzed the city of Jackson, leaving more than 160,000 residents without running water over the past week.
But faced with a challenge far greater than reading a proper line-check or landing a scoring run, Jackson State provided a haven worthy of an escape, with a 59-3 defeat of the Rattlers. Defense Tigers, the unit that ranked second among FCS programs in ’21, was all over the place on Sunday.
FAMU’s first four out of 14 offensive runs in the game resulted in four balls and an average net gain of seven yards. JSU’s two-way sensation Travis Hunter was targeted twice in the first quarter by quarterback Jeremy Moses. both times, The first player in the SI99 ratings was delivered With first-class plays, including a major effort to swerve on the right-hand side against one of the Rattlers’ first-class receivers. But despite Hunter’s dominant performance, he was presumably nowhere near his optimum level, like 60 percent. “But Travis Hunter is 60 percent like 100 percent of everyone else,” Sanders added after the game.
Schedur Sanders, FCS Freshman of the Year winner Jerry Rice, scored 17 of 17 before scoring his first incomplete pass of the game in the second quarter. FAMU coach Willie Simmons told reporters on Monday that part of the Rattlers’ job was to ensure Shedeur was unable to “split” high school.
Despite the Rattlers’ efforts, Shedeur made a master’s of defense picking, finished with 323 yards on 29 of 33 passes and hooked up with 11 different JSU receivers for five career-high touchdowns (against a team confined to a hasty touchdown in one yard last year OBC). Sitting next to his father after the game, the sophomore quarterback credited the Tigers’ new offensive coordinator, Brett Bartolon, and a revamped offensive streak set the stage for his success. “Coach Brett…was ready for this match as we were all,” he said.
The Tigers’ defense also made sure that FAMU’s attack never met with a whiff of confidence or cadence: The Rattlers’ last 10 offensive possessions in the game included seven flicks, two fumbles, a field goal, two interceptions, and a spin on a unit touchdown. That crossed the midline only three times. Xavier Smith, another distinguished receiver of the Rattlers, was quiet as he sat at the table at a post-game press conference. But despite the outburst, Smith remained positive about the direction the team was headed. “You will never see FAMU play that kind of football again; I can promise you that,” he said.
Moses, the Vanderbilt transfer quarterback, who lit up the North Carolina high school last week for 279 yards from 28 passes from 39 and two passes, was never comfortable against Jackson State. He was limited to 102 passing yards and had one interception while being fired three times. When last year’s player, Rasian Mackay, entered the game in an effort to bring in some offensive relief, it resulted in first-half confusion and a interception nearly halfway through the fourth quarter.
But like the Tigers, FAMU had a slice of misfortune entering Sunday’s game. Prior to the Rattlers’ season opener against North Carolina State, 26 players on the team were disqualified due to NCAA compliance issues. After a week of persistent questions, along with more than 80 players who wrote a letter to FFA President Larry Robinson on the issue, 18 of the 26 players returned for Sunday’s game. Among these are two of FAMU’s best defenders: HBCU NFL Player of the Year Buck Buchanan winner Isaiah Land (who had one sack in the first half of the game) as well as All-SWAC defender BJ Bohler.
However, the impact of the two was limited as JSU posted 471 total offense yards compared to FAMU’s 155. Simmons was quick to take the blame.
Simmons said after the game: “This is, by far, the worst job I’ve had as a football coach.” “This is an embarrassing day for all of us. … Today’s match was not indicative of what kind of team we have.”
But while the Tigers lift the Orange Blossom Classic trophy once again, the state of Jackson returns to reality, returning to a city that is slowly beginning to restore water to areas affected by the water crisis. according to Clarion LedgerCity officials have stated that residents should “increase water pressure” due to increased storage levels in water tanks at the OB Curtis water treatment plant. What he hopes will be the start of some small relief for the city’s water affairs comes after Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency regarding the crisis.
With the city still going through constant struggles and all JSU students—college athletes included—in virtual learning through September 8, Sanders is focused on preparing his players for the next test against Tennessee State at the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis. With a shorter week to prepare, the process won’t be easy — or cheap. The program will still need to keep players in hotels, which cost roughly “$15,000 a night,” find food to feed the athletes as well as ensure all training clothing, uniforms and equipment are in top shape.
So, as they claim victory in their first match, the plight of the Tigers – the one that got out of their hands – remains. However, the JSU challenge is no stranger. More personally for Sanders, who lost his grandmother before Sunday’s game, he must deal with the loss of the woman he knew as the “patriarch of his family,” the “God-pious woman” who was everything to him.
But with the Tigers’ deep performances, Sanders hopes the team will be a support system for the city, alumni, and JSU fans alike as the program chases another season of victories amid The city’s ongoing water crisis and infrastructure problems dating back five decades.
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