Jackson State football repeats as SWAC champion as Deion Sanders' future takes center stage

Deion Sanders led Jackson State football to its second straight SWAC Championship on Saturday.

Whether he coaches in another game for the Tigers is to be determined.

JSU hammered Southern 43-24 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in what could be the final game of Sanders' thrilling three-year tenure with the Tigers.

Sanders reportedly is close to landing the Colorado job, with ESPN reporting Friday a staff of coaches already was being assembled and Sports Illustrating reporting that a deal could be finalized as soon as Saturday night in Boulder, Colorado.

If that's the case, Sanders went out on top. Sophomore quarterback Shedeur Sanders passed for 293 yards with four touchdowns as JSU advanced to the Celebration Bowl for the second straight year.

Sanders skipped the postgame press conference for what was termed a team meeting.

The Tigers (12-0) will face NC Central (9-2) on Dec. 17 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta for the right to win the de facto Black college national championship.

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ESPN reports Sanders is leaving for Colorado

Less than 24 hours before kickoff, ESPN reported that Deion Sanders was preparing to take the Colorado job and his associates had made inquiries to potential members of his on-field staff and support staff.

On Saturday, Sports Illustrated reported that Colorado had planned a Board of Regents meeting for Sunday "presumably to approve" Sanders' contract. The university is preparing for a grand announcement, the report stated.

None of that impacted JSU when the game started. The Tigers led 26-0 during the first quarter.

Jackson State sends an early message

Sanders, hired before the 2019 season, didn't want his team to forget their earlier matchup against Southern. The Tigers dominated the Jaguars in October, capitalizing on the momentum of having ESPN's "College GameDay" on campus.

It was a similar display of dominance to start the SWAC Championship. Southern elected to receive the opening kickoff – an attempt to build some momentum under coach Eric Dooley – and it immediately backfired.

Southern went three-and-out on its first drive, which led to a 22-yard field goal for Alejandro Mato. The Jaguars had consecutive turnovers on the next two drives; first an interception from Besean McCray and then a fumble from Harold Blood.

JSU capitalized on both turnovers, including a 14-yard TD strike to Shane Hooks.

The rout was on in the first half.

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Jackson State's defense falters in second half

Jackson State's defense had dominated in conference play and might be one of the best units in the FCS. The Tigers held opponents to 10.1 points per game entering the SWAC Championship and had a chance to shut out Southern twice.

That didn't happen – a 4-yard TD run from Glendon McDaniel in the second quarter ruined that – but Dennis Thurman's defense was still dominant in the first half, limiting Southern to 190 total yards.

That all changed in the second half.

The Jaguars opened the third quarter with a 34-yard TD from McDaniel to Chandler Whitfield to cut Jackson State's lead to 33-17 with 11:49 remaining in the third quarter.

McDaniel struck again with a 42-yard TD run on the ensuing drive. McDaniel finished with 217 passing yards, 162 rushing yards and three TDs.

It was the most points Jackson State has allowed since defeating Grambling 66-24 on Sept. 17. And it came in a game when star freshman Travis Hunter left the game with flu-like symptoms in the second half.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Jackson State football repeats SWAC champion. Deion Sanders' final game?