Deion Sanders speaks after Jackson State’s win at Grambling State
Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders spoke to the local media after JSU’s 33-28 win over Grambling State on March 6.
Rashad Milligan, Mississippi Clarion Ledger
Let’s not make any mistakes about how big it is that ESPN’s “College GameDay” is coming to Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium before Jackson State’s game against Southern on Saturday. The last time “GameDay” attended an HBCU game was when North Carolina Central played against Alcorn State in 2021 in Atlanta.
The simple fact that “GameDay” is here in Jackson for the first time ever is a testimony to the power of Jackson State football coach Deion Sanders’ influence. This has been three years in the making. The Tigers are off to their best start since 1983 (7-0), are the fifth-ranked team in FCS Coaches Poll and playing on ESPN+ for the past five weeks and the rest of the season.
The popularity of Jackson State football has culminated into a Hollywood premier atmosphere. It can be likened to the days of USC football, where celebrities roamed the sidelines at games in 2003. The Tigers have captured the imagination of fans everywhere, especially in the African American community, with more visibility. In the past four weeks, CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a special segment on Sanders. On Friday, ABC’s “Good Morning America” hosted its show from Jackson, for the school’s homecoming. Sitting in the red chairs reserved for special guests on the sidelines during the game were superstar rappers Rick Ross and Snoop Dogg, among others.
The pregame hype on “GameDay” would be the biggest boost yet for Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders to keep the dream of a Heisman Trophy alive. The game will not be televised live on ESPN, but it will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Shedeur Sanders, a sophomore and Deion’s son, is having a nice season and will soar past the numbers he set as a freshman. To draw Heisman votes, he will need to pick up his numbers exponentially in the last four games. A bigger problem Sanders has this year and going forward is that Jackson State games are not televised during Prime Time in front of the all-important FBS fan base. Also, ESPN and the networks do not often include Sanders’ biggest plays on their college football weekend highlights segments. That more than anything hurts his Heisman candidacy.
You can be sure that Heisman voters tune in for highlights, and they see big plays from players and teams over and over from morning through late night. In communications, this is called “framing.”
Regardless of Sanders stats, which are nice — he’s 210-of-287 passing for 2,231 yards with 23 TDs with five interceptions in seven games — his last two games from a statistical standpoint hurt him. Bethune-Cookman kept him under 300 yards (36-of-48, 272 yards with five TDs and two interceptions). Against Campbell, he was 23-of-31 for 233 yards with one TD and an interception.
SHEDEUR SANDERS TURNS JSU TO AIR RAIDShedeur Sanders turns Jackson State into Air Raid of the South
COLLEGE GAMEDAY COMING TO JACKSONESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ coming to Jackson State football for first time
TRAVIS HUNTER RETURNS IN HOMECOMING GAMETravis Hunter returns in Jackson State football homecoming against Campbell
“I would give him the Heisman Trophy,” said Campbell coach Mike Minter, like Deion Sanders a former NFL star. “Our goal was to make him run and not let him beat us with his arm. We wanted to make them (Jackson State) beat us by running the ball. He is the heart and soul of their offense. He makes them go.”
No matter what happens with the Heisman race for Sanders, this is a nice season to build upon and a learning experience for 2023. The topic no one is talking about and which is more team-oriented is that for the first time in program history, JSU has an opportunity to finish undefeated and win the National Black College championship. It will not be easy with four tough regular-season games left, three of which are on the road. If the Tigers can go undefeated in the SWAC for the second consecutive season, they would host the SWAC championship game and if they win there, they would face a team from the MEAC on Dec. 17 in the Celebration Bowl.
Regarding the college champions, Clemson (2018), LSU (2019) and Alabama (2020) recently went undefeated. It’s tougher at the FCS level because those teams often play games against those FBS programs, but North Dakota State went undefeated to win FCS titles in 2013, 2018 and 2019. Florida A&M (11-1) won NCAA I-AA championship in 1978 when its beat UMass, 35-28, in the Pioneer Bowl.
With so much of the season left, the Tigers can control what they do between the lines in the next few weeks, starting with a tough Southern team.
Jackson State will play Southern at 1p.m. on Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium
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