By Mike Christenson
Photos by Hays Collins

Jackson State, considered a heavy favorite by some, held off Delta State 24-17 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium. Coach Deion Sanders’ Tigers, who play in NCAA Division I’s Football Championship Subdivision, improved to 3-1. Delta State, ranked No. 25 in one NCAA Division II poll, is 2-2.

Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, threw three touchdown passes as JSU built a 24-7 lead late in the third quarter. But the Statesmen, who came in averaging almost 40 points per game, got a 64-yard touchdown run from Deion Dampier and a 41-yard field goal (following a JSU fumble) by Connor Mantelli to make it 24-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Both offenses scuffled for the remainder of the game, but DSU put together a last-ditch push after a short JSU punt and a return by Robbie Evans to the Tigers’ 25. The Statesmen reached the JSU 7 with 8 seconds left, but a fourth-down pass by Patrick Shegog fell incomplete.

Shedeur Sanders was 25-of-36 passing for 251 yards with two scoring tosses to Keith Corbin III and another to Warren Newman, who caught a team-leading 11 passes. JSU once again struggled to run the ball, managing just 65 yards on 38 attempts.

“We’re very predictable at some points,” Deion Sanders said earlier in the week regarding the lack of a ground attack.

JSU’s defense limited DSU to 237 total yards, harassing Shegog into a 12-for-33 performance. He threw for just 91 yards and rushed for minus-2. He came in with over 700 yards of total offense in three games. Dampier led the Statesmen in rushing with 93 yards on eight carries.

For the Statesmen, this game fell between Gulf South Conference contests against nationally ranked West Georgia, a one-point loss last week, and No. 1-ranked West Florida.

“We just wanted a game,” coach Todd Cooley said, noting that his team didn’t get to play in 2020. He said some around the program called him crazy for scheduling the Tigers: “Yeah, maybe I am crazy — crazy about our players.”

This was the third meeting between the two schools. DSU won the first one in 2007, and JSU took the second in 2010.

The W.C. Gorden Classic honors the late JSU head coach who won eight SWAC championships in a decorated career with the Tigers.