JACKSON, MISS. – Alabama State running back Ezra Gray had finished a six-yard dash when the final seconds marked the jumbotron in the first half at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders on his blue scooter quickly led his players to the Tigers locker room.
All eyes were on “Thee I Love” as the Tigers and Hornets were tied 7-7 at halftime. JSU’s offense had only amassed 101 yards of offense and quarterback Shedeur Sanders had been sacked twice. JSU needed some motivation.
It was JSU’s homecoming after all, a time when fans, students and alumni packed the stadium to watch their “dear old college home” soccer team win on the playing field and enjoy the melodies of the Sonic Boom of the South. How could one lose with this radiant energy around him?
Sanders, who like many of his players this week, was experiencing his first homecoming game in front of a record 53,578 people – the 10th.th biggest game in JSU history. But right now, nothing mattered, not the crowd, the band, the pageantry, but figuring out what adjustments needed to be made. Your message:
“We lost the second quarter and we don’t like to lose quarters,” Sanders told reporters at the post-game press conference. “We have to search deep within ourselves and discover who we are.”
The Tigers were being challenged by a Hornets team that had previously beaten them in the 2021 spring season and defeated them in 2019 on this exact same field for the homecoming. Who was going to step up for JSU?
The players waited in the locker room entrance to re-enter the field after Boom’s 50.th Anniversary halftime show that ended with a rendition of Doug E Fresh’s “The Show” intertwined with the remix of “Before I Let Go.”
When the Tigers took to the field, their energy was different. In the team’s first drive of the second half, Shedeur, who finished the game with 201 passing yards and two touchdowns, connected with receivers Keith Corbin and Malachi Wideman on a series of passes that ended with Corbin carrying a touchdown reception of 12. yards to give JSU a 14–7 lead.
But, the Tigers were heating up. After JSU’s defense forced the Hornets to punt, one of four second-half punts for Alabama State, JSU’s offense struck again. Shedeur completed a 36-yard pass to Wideman to the Hornets’ 19th. This set up Tigers running back Santee Marshall’s four-yard touchdown, a score that opened the game.
Little did Marshall know, his touchdown and 96-yard rushing performance were about to get even sweeter. In the fourth quarter, the Tigers added a 21-yard touchdown run from JD Martin to seal a 28-7 victory and their first homecoming win since 2018.
As the Boom played DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” with the score 0:00, the players left the field with smiles and enthusiasm into the locker room. Sanders, who was full of cameras leading to the locker room, made a pit stop to speak with Marshall’s parents.
Marshall, who made his spring season debut against Alabama A&M with 126 yards and a touchdown, previously served as the team’s cameraman. He transferred from Division II Miles College in Alabama under former Tigers head coach John Hendrick. However, when he tried out for Sanders’ team, he missed the cut.
But after a 122-yard performance against the Bulldogs and nearly 100 on Saturday, Sanders told Marshall’s parents that he was surprising their son with a full soccer scholarship.
“He deserved it.… He brings hope to people, you’re talking about a guy last year who was filming guys that he knew was better than and he waited patiently for his opportunity and when the opportunity presented itself, he introduced himself.” said Sanders. “His commitment, his consistency with excellence, is a model for any path in the country through his resilience.”
Marshall, who was shocked, had no idea what was going on when he entered the locker room and his teammates congratulated him.
“To be in the position that I am in now and to be able to produce for this team is a blessing,” Marshall said. “I feel like I worked for it.”
Sanders, who refers to Marshall as “38 Special” by the number he wears, said he had been planning the big surprise since the first game of the season. But the coach needed a little help to get it done.
“Its [Marshall] mother played her role [in the surprise] very good, ”Sanders laughed.
The Tigers got a victory. Despite a week of practice in which the team did not perform well, Sanders scored his first homecoming victory in true HBCU style. As you enjoy the homecoming experience at JSU’s iconic Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza, he hopes to find a way to better keep his players focused during homecoming week.
“We practice like crap all week, we practice really well on Friday,” Sanders said. “The thing about home visits at HBCUs is that everyone is involved and the players don’t have to be involved in everything that happens on campus. We are happy and euphoric, but they have no right to get involved and many times they do and did. I have to figure out how to get them off campus next time we get home. “
Better luck next time, Coach Sanders.
More college football coverage:
• Through Talent and Tucker, MSU is the surprise of the season
• How a UTSA student pretended to enter the A&M locker room
• Cincinnati, Oklahoma dismantles opponents in week 7 supremacy
• Behind their ugly defense, this is Georgia’s year to win the big one.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.