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Jackson State Outlasts Tennessee State in a Defensive Slugfest

Jackson State wins a tough defensive slugfest over Tennessee State in the Southern Heritage Classic

51,351 fans witnessed an old fashion HBCU slugfest in the Southern Heritage Classic in a 16-3 defensive battle eventually won by the Jackson State Tigers over the Tennessee State Tigers.

Deion Sanders and Eddie George

"I'm glad we got out here with the victory, even though we did feel like we didn't play our best football," Coach Deion Sanders said in the postgame press conference.

The Jackson State offensive firepower was neutralized for most of the game by a rugged and well-coached Tennessee State defense.  

Conversely, the TSU Tigers' offense was inconsistent and faltered in the second half against a swarming and dangerous JSU defense. "3 yards on 27 plays in the second half. Those are phenomenal statistics," Deion Sanders shared about his defense's performance. TSU had second-half possession yardage of 3, -5, 0, -22, and -6 yards.

Tennessee State took an early first-quarter lead on a K Kaleb Mosley field goal after an 11-play, 58-yard drive. 

JSU had a 17-play, 69-yard possession to stall when Coach Deion Sanders sent in K Alejandro Mata to boot a 28-yard field goal and tied the score at 3-3 with 8:30 in the second quarter. 

Shedeur Sanders

"Offensively, we got to execute better. It starts upfront. We got to be more physical upfront," QB Shedeur Sanders reflected on the JSU offense.

Both offenses had their chances in the second quarter until Jackson State took a 6-3 lead when Mata kicked a 27-yarder through the uprights with 2:46 remaining before halftime.  

Tennessee State did not have the offensive firepower to overtake Jackson State. "Once we couldn't get our run game going, that we got behind the chains," TSU head coach Eddie George remarked. "We're not the type of offense that can consistently be in third-and-eight, third-and-long situations. We got to be in third-and-short for us to get it going."

After the intermission, Tennessee State's defense stiffened on a Jackson State 13-play drive that forced JSU K Mata to boom a 48-yard field goal with 2:15 in the 3rd quarter for a 9-3 advantage.

Eddie George's offense did not help the TSU defense, who prevented JSU from gaining a sizable advantage in the contest twice. Once within the 10-yard line and caused a fumble into the endzone and another on the goal line.

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The TSU defense stymied a 14-play drive by preventing QB Shedeur Sanders' 4th-and-1 rushing attempt. The play could have been a pivotal moment for Tennessee State, but Jackson State's defense was equal to the challenge as TSU could not take advantage of the big goal-line play on their ensuing possession.

As tension grew in the fourth quarter, Jackson State had to score and extend their 9-3 lead.  

Then with 2:20 left on the clock, Shedeur Sanders tossed a strike to wide receiver Willie "Big Play" Gaines as he fought off a defender for a 27-yard touchdown reception.

Tennessee State s Draylen Ellis (7) makes a pass during the Southern Heritage Classic between Jackson State and Tennessee State on Saturday, September 10, 2022, in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mata's extra point increased the Jackson State lead to 16-3 on the drive of 3-plays, 28 yards, that took 1:01 off the clock.

Deion Sanders and his JSU Tigers won 16-3 in the 2022 Southern Heritage Classic at Hale Stadium.

Next week, Jackson State (2-0, 1-0 SWAC) will host Grambling State (1-1, 0-0 SWAC) at 1 PM CT on Saturday, Sept. 17 in Jackson, MS at Veterans Memorial Stadium.  The game will give the JSU faithful a long overdue home game since the 27-10 2021 SWAC Championship win over Prairie View.

Grambling head coach Hue Jackson and the G-Men are going for their second-straight upset.  On Saturday, Grambling routed Northwestern State 47-21 in Shreveport, LA at Independence Stadium.

Jackson State has to alleviate the untimely penalties, miscues, and offensive line problems ahead of the Grambling State battle next Saturday.



Jackson State

  • QB Shedeur Sanders - 30/44, 276 yards, 1 TD
  • RB Sy'veon Wilkerson - 15 rushes, 81 yards
  • RB J.D. Martin - 11 rushes, 38 yards
  • WR Steve Hooks - 9 receptions (on 13 targets), 93 yards
  • WR Willie Gaines - 1 reception, 27 yards, 1 TD
  • S Cam'Ron Silmon-Craig - 11 total tackles, 1.5 TFL
  • DT Nyles Gaddy - 4 sacks, 6 tackles

Tennessee State

  • QB Draylen Ellis - 10/24, 138 yards; 18 rushes, 70 rushing yards
  • WR Cam Wyche - 2 receptions, 52 yards