Jackson State briefly trailed 10-7 in the first half Saturday before scoring the next 20 points for a 27-10 win over Prairie View A&M to claim its second-ever SWAC championship in the divisional era in from of a title game record 50,128 spectators at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
JSU will play South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 18.
“We got the W,” head coach Deion Sanders said. “We didn’t play our best but we gave it our best and I’m happy.”
JSU (11-1, 9-0 SWAC) didn’t produce its most effective offensive effort against Prairie View in the program’s biggest game in eight seasons.
Instead, the Tigers relied on a menacing defense, which forced four turnovers and tallied a defensive touchdown by SWAC Newcomer of the Year James Houston.
The unit held Prairie View to 230 total yards and 4 for 15 on third-down conversion attempts.
Tigers quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the SWAC Freshman of the Year, went 9-of-17 for a season-low 82 yards to go along with one touchdown and one interception.
Jackson State, which finished last in the SWAC in rushing, was led by senior Peytton Pickett, who tallied 99 yards and a touchdown.
Prairie View (7-5, 6-3 SWAC) opened the scoring with a 35-yard first-quarter touchdown pass from wide receiver Ty Holden to Jailon Howard.
Transfer quarterback Jawon Pass accounted for four turnovers, including three interceptions before he was benched in the second half for backup Trazon Connley.
“I just thought we needed a spark, said Panthers coach Eric Dooley of the decision to replace Pass. “I thought we were stagnant. We had some opportunities that were missed. I never call a player out on missed opportunities. This is on the team. It’s going to be on me as a coach. So, I had some missed opportunities.”
Jackson State trailed 10-7 in the second quarter after a Luis Reyes 37-yard field goal before Isaiah Bolden returned the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to give the Tigers a 13-10 lead it would not relinquish.
For Jackson State, it was the program’s 17th overall conference title and first since 2007 under then-head coach Rick Comegy.
In less than a calendar year, the Tigers evolved from an ambitious but uncertain experiment in hiring Sanders to the outright best team in Black college football in 2021.
“Look at this. Look at the community,” Sanders told an ESPN reporter after the game. “Look at Jackson. Look at the SWAC.
“I’m so elated right now. It’s one thing to win, but to win with our people? Jesus, Lord, I thank you.”