Grambling facing big challenge at Jackson State

GSU faces the Deion Sanders-led Jackson State Tigers Saturday.

By T. Scott Boatright

Grambling State wants a win this weekend at Jackson State.

And in order to do so, he wants his G-Men to not let the game become bigger than it really is because of the hoopla surrounding the former NFL head coach’s first game facing Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders on the opposite sideline.

“It won’t be about me and Deion, obviously we don’t play. We’re both a little too old to play,’ Jackson said about the meeting between Grambling and Jackson that kicks off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi. “It’s about our football teams. They have a good football team. I think our team is growing and getting better every day, so we’ll find out come Saturday.”

It’s not  considered a Southwestern Athletic Conference  contest, but the game has plenty of importance for both teams as Grambling State looks for back-to-back wins for the first time since 2019 and Jackson State tries to start the season at 3-0.

Grambling (1-1) is coming off a 47-21 win over Northwestern State last weekend in a game that the G-Men exploded out to a 47-7 halftime advantage.

“As soon as I walked off the field, me celebrating that victory was over with,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be a tall challenge on Saturday against Jackson State. That’s the way this conference is. They are one of the really good football teams in this conference. They are on the schedule and I think our players are really looking forward to playing them.” 

While Jackson insists the game isn’t about him versus Sanders, he does admit “Prime Time” has been good for Black college football.

“I think he’s been sensational since he came into the conference,” Jackson said about Sanders.   “He’s done a great job of really pulling back the tape of everything that’s gone on in the conference. I think he’s pulled back the tape as far as giving young players more opportunities, whether it’s in the National Football League or just everyday life.

“He’s been great that way. Deion’s always been that. I don’t think people knew what kind of coach he is, what kind of leader he is. He’s tremendous — always has been always will be, and people gravitate to him because of who he is. He has that media spotlight.”

GSU will be facing a Jackson State defense that hasn’t allowed a  touchdown so far, opening the season by defeating Florida A&M 59-3 in the Orange Blossom Classic before topping Tennessee State 16-3 last weekend in the Southern Heritage Classic.

Grmabling will be looking for a second straight strong game from junior quarterback Quaterius Hawkins, who is the  the SWAC and Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA) Offensive Player of the Week after connecting on 13-of-23 pass attempts for 293 yards and three touchdowns in last weekend’s win over Northwestern State.

“I thought he played the way we know he can play,” Jackson said about Harkins’ performance against the Demons. “He did a good job of distributing the ball. He spread it around and took care of the football, which I think is so important. 

“But at the same time, I thought he played within the system. And if we continue to do that, then we’ll continue to get better.”

GSU running back Maurice Washington also turned in a big game against Northwestern State, rushing for 95 yards on only five carries — scoring a pair of touchdowns and averaging 19 yards per run. Washington previously played at Trinity Christian in Dallas, where the offensive coordinator was Deion Sanders and the quarterback was current JSU signal caller Shedeur Sanders, before Washington transferred to Nebraska before making the move to Grambling.

The G-Men will be facing a JSU defense that has surrendered only six points through two games while recording 12 quarterback sacks.

“It’s going to be a tall challenge, but that’s the way this conference is, it’s full of good football teams and they’re one of the better teams in the conference,” Jackson said about JSU. “We want to be considered one of those teams. This is the next team on the schedule, so this is who we’re playing.

Jackson knows his defense will face as big a challenge as his offense against JSU.

“We’ve got to keep their receivers in front of us,” Jackson said. “They get behind everybody and make plays. Shedaur has done a great job of distributing the ball to his receivers. He’s one of the best players in this conference, no question about that.

“This is the third game of the season. I think everybody is making it bigger than it really is in my opinion. But I understand. It’s a big game. It’s Grambling vs. Jackson State.” 

Grambling State will broadcast and stream the game on the Grambling State Sports Radio Network. 

The game can be heard in Ruston and Dubach on the flagship station, The Peach (KPCH-99.3 FM), KNNW 103.1 FM in Columbia and Monroe and KEDG 106.9 FM in Alexandria and Pineville. 

The Tigers’ broadcast crew of Santoria Black, Ossie Clark, Brandon Lagarde and T. Lay Collins will call all of the action.