Minutes after Jackson State suffered a humbling 31-10 loss to South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl last December, Deion Sanders made a promise.
On that cold Atlanta afternoon, he watched his offensive line — a sore spot throughout 2021 — be unable to protect quarterback Shedeur Sanders or help establish a running game to alleviate the pressure of an inspired Bulldogs defense. The head coach also witnessed the defensive line — one of the strengths of the 22-man unit — underperform.
So, in the bowels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Sanders assured what led to the Tigers’ second loss of the season — in the biggest game of the year — wouldn’t happen again.
“What happened today, I could fix that,” he said then. “I’m going to fix that. I’m already in the process of fixing that. I know the problems and I got the solutions.”
The first quarter of its Orange Blossom Classic matchup versus Florida A&M exemplified the formula that Deion Sanders and his staff had been working on all offseason to improve what was already a championship-winning team.
It started with Sheduer Sanders who started 17-for-17 for 170 yards and three first-half touchdowns. He threw two more in the third quarter against a Rattlers’ defense that was one of the best in the country and included 2021 Buck Buchanan Award winner Isaiah Land.
The much-maligned offensive line from a year ago had four new starters and kept the Jerry Rice Award winner clean in the pocket save for a few snaps where Sanders was forced off his spot but still able to make the proper reads to make plays.
When the offensive display was over, Sanders had gone 29 of 33 for 323 yards and 5 TD in a masterful 59-3 win on Sunday afternoon in front of 39,907 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida.
And it just wasn’t the offense that displayed its dominance. The JSU defense made life difficult for Rattlers QB Jeremy Moussa and a Florida A&M offense that performed valiantly against North Carolina.
The wide-open throwing lanes and time in the pocket was nonexistent. No. 1 recruit Travis Hunter — playing defensive back — broke two passes and deflected another that was nearly intercepted. The Tigers’ vaunted defensive line led by Nyles Gaddy, Aubrey Miller and others caused three turnovers, two sacks, scored a pair of touchdowns and held the Rattlers to 155 yards of total offense.
The result was the worst loss by a FAMU team to an HBCU program since a 56-7 defeat to Hampton in 2006.