Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders, minutes after his group suffered its worse loss of the spring season, wanted to let everyone from former players to school alumni know this version of the Tigers wasn’t indicative of the team that was bullied 34-14 by Southern Saturday afternoon.
“That’s just not who we are,” Sanders said, placing the blame for the lackluster performance on his shoulders. “I promise you that’s not who we are, and that’s not who we are going to be by any means.”
Most understand that this Jackson State roster — despite the offseason recruiting haul — isn’t as refined as what will be on display come the fall when everyone from the 2021 class is eligible to suit up.
But if a single April outcome doesn’t define Jackson State, what is to be made of Southern walking into Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium under the national glare of an ESPN audience and running roughshod over a more celebrated rival?
On this day, it was Southern playing with a chip on its shoulder and something to prove.
The statistics — 474 yards of total offense, a defense holding Jackson State to one successful third-down conversion in eight attempts, and establishing a 42-minute, 49-second time of possession advantage — signaled just how dominant the Jaguars were.
The explosive JSU offense that pilfered Edward Waters, Mississippi Valley State, and Grambling State was limited to 66 yards rushing and 309 yards of total production.
It was the running game, led by the ball-controlled brilliance of bruiser Devon Benn and his two rushing touchdowns to go along with complementary aid from Jerodd Sims and the timely scrambles by quarterback Ladarius Skelton that resulted in 294 yards among six different ball carriers.
Saturday’s result was a far cry from weeks ago when there were real doubts about the Jaguars following an ugly loss at home to SWAC West-leading Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
There were questions about whether Skelton could be the guy at quarterback or whether he would even finish the season on the roster. The defense seemed out of sorts, too.
Those issues, at least for now, seem to be resolved after consecutive road wins.
Being on the right side of the scoreboard is a welcome elixir.
“People got to see why you come to Southern University,” head coach Dawson Odums told the media after extending the program’s winning streak over Jackson State to eight games. “We’ve been good. Now the world had a chance to see it.”
Though the outcome of the regular season is still unfolding and remains uncertain with the specter of COVID-19 in play, this is what Southern is at the moment.
And we all had the chance to witness the televised evolution.