Jackson State head coach T.C. Taylor paused momentarily, looked up, and then presented a wry smile before carefully responding to a question about playing a designated SWAC divisional game at a neutral site.
“Give me another season, and I’ll let you know,” said Taylor with a smile.
On Saturday, Jackson State (3-2, 1-1 SWAC) — for the second-straight season — is scheduled to play Alabama A&M (3-2, 1-1 SWAC) in the Gulf Coast Challenge in Mobile, Alabama.
In 2022, the Tigers beat the Bulldogs 27-13 en route to an undefeated regular season and SWAC championship.
But the reaction by Taylor likely might have signaled a bit of mild annoyance that for the fifth time in the last seven weeks, Jackson State will be playing another non-home game. Also, a game of this magnitude — a SWAC East elimination one — has the identity of a traditional HBCU football Classic instead of a matchup that matters so much.
Despite whatever qualms Taylor had about the event, he spoke highly of the Gulf Coast Challenge, saying organizers “rolled out the red carpet” for the Bulldogs and Tigers with lots of hospitality and pregame—ceremonies involving both schools.
Coming off a timely bye, Jackson State faces a must-win regular season conference game for the first time in three seasons. That reality, not the pomp and circumstance — and maybe a minor travel inconvenience –is the focus.
“It’s the next one on the schedule against an Eastern Division opponent,” said Taylor. “We have to be ready to play and put all that other stuff aside. Like I say with those Classics, the pageantry isn’t for us. It’s up to us to execute and be the best football team on the field.”
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