JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Shedeur Sanders threw for four touchdowns, including two on three first-quarter turnovers, staking Jackson State to a big early lead on the way to routing Southern 43-24 in Saturday's Southwest Athletic Conference championship that was possibly Deion Sanders' final game as Tigers coach.
Reports swirled before the game that Sanders would announce his departure from the FCS program after three seasons to become head coach at Colorado. Sanders acknowledged an offer from the school earlier this week and added that he had talked to other FBS programs about vacancies. Colorado's board of regents called a special meeting for Sunday but hasn't commented on any candidates taking over the Buffaloes.
JSU (12-0) quashed any questions about Sanders' future being a distraction by completing the first unbeaten regular season in school history and claiming its second consecutive SWAC championship. The Tigers' top-ranked defense set the tone by quickly pouncing on the Jaguars for three turnovers in eight plays in the first quarter.
Shedeur Sanders, the Hall of Fame coach's son, and the Tigers easily converted the takeaways into a 26-0 lead after 15 minutes, a run boosted by Sy'veon Wilkerson's 1-yard TD run two plays after Herman Smith III's 37-yard interception return. Two fumbles created chances for Sanders to hit Shane Hooks for TD passes of 14 and 40 yards and two-point conversions to Kevin Coleman Jr.
Sanders' 14-yard TD pass to Coleman made it 33-7 at halftime, but Southern (7-5) didn't quit and even got within 36-24 late in the in third quarter on Glendon McDaniel's 42-yard TD run.
Sanders, the SWAC's offensive player of the year, completed 31 of 44 passes for 305 yards. Hooks caught five passes for 98 yards and Wilkerson rushed 15 times for 61 yards.
McDaniel was 15 of 34 passing for 220 yards and a TD for Southern.
The Tigers advanced to the Celebration Bowl for historically Black colleges on Dec. 17 in Atlanta against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina Central.
The Tigers' victory improved Sanders to 27-5 as coach of the FCS program and came days after he was named SWAC coach of the year for the second consecutive season.
Southern: The Jaguars mounted a strong second-half offensive effort behind Glendon McDaniel, but JSU's initial onslaught on both sides of the ball was too much to handle.
Jackson State: The Tigers put together one of the most dominant seasons in school history with the SWAC's top defense and offense. Both units proved why as the defense overwhelmed the Jaguars from the start, while Sanders took advantage of short fields to complete pinpoint throws from clean pockets.
Jackson State faces North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 in Atlanta.
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