By Nunnie Robinson, Westside Gazette
Photos By Ron Lyons
During the Friday press conference at Hard Rock Stadium, Coach Deion “Prime Time” Sanders and his players, Shedeur Sanders and Devanta Davis, each spoke about dominating the Orange Blossom Classic against FAMU in every phase of the game, not in a haughty, braggadocios way but by exuding supreme confidence in the talent, preparation and character developed by the JSU Tigers throughout fall camp. However, based on the Rattler’s performance against Power 5 opponent North Carolina of ACC affiliation, in spite of the compliance and ineligible player issues, and last year’s closely fought battle (JSU 7- FAMU 6), the odds of a dominant performance by either team seemed completely far fetched. Surely, the talent gap could not have widened that much in a year. Boy, was I mistaken, misled or misinformed, and I’ll bet you 10-1 odds that I was not alone in my assessment.
Well, it didn’t take long after the game started to realize that Coach Prime wasn’t blowing hot air or trying to be deceptive, and that he actually knew what his team was capable of.
Quarterback Shedeur Sanders carved the Rattler secondary into bite-sized miniature green snakes, completing his first 17 passes, some of medium distance, RAC (run-after-catch) drive sustaining plays. He appeared to be a much improved, accurate passer, extremely well prepared, elusive and experienced with uncanny pocket presence and the unquestioned leader of the team. His final stats included a school record 5 touchdown passes connecting on 27 of 33 for 273 yards and no interceptions.
The game began at 3:00 pm under mostly sunny skies with a temperature of 93 degrees. The Tigers won the toss, electing to defer until the second half. On multiple FAMU possessions, including the first, the Tiger defense forced a 3 downs and punt scenario. Often stats can be deceiving but in this lopsided debacle, the first half stats revealed Jackson State’s dominance – first downs JSU 16 – FAMU 6 ; passing yards JSU 170- FAMU 50; third down conversions JSU 3/5 – FAMU 2/9; total offensive plays/yards JSU 35/197 – FAMU 30/59 ; and scoring JSU 24 – FAMU 3.
Shedeur Sanders in the first half threw 3 three TD passes of 8,8 & 29 yards to three different receivers. A 42 yard field goal with 1:46 remaining in the second quarter gave the Tigers a comfortable lead.
FAMU finally scored a field goal with 58 seconds remaining in the first half. It’s conceivable that a touchdown in that moment may have sparked a 2nd half comeback as optimism would suggest. Of course, that’s not what happened. JSU received the second half kickoff and scored on Sanders’ fourth touchdown pass giving the Tigers a commanding 31-3 advantage. FAMU’s futility continued in the second half as an INT for a touchdown, a fumble recovery for another score and a blocked punt resulting in still another score sealed the lopsided contest.
Allow me to editorialize momentarily. It is highly conceivable that the myriad issues confronting the entire Florida A&M community may have converged on both “The Marching One Hundred “ and the Rattler football team. Yours is a school with great tradition academically and athletically, perhaps arguably the most famous HBCU in history. Put all in the rear view mirror and look forward to all the great things to come. I am unaware of any situation confronting Florida A&M University i. e., NCAA compliance, a mediocre band performance as there will be other opportunities, or a once in a lifetime Rattler football team blowout (ya’ll play next week so the pity party should have ended Monday) that the great FAMU leadership can’t resolve. As a native born Mississippian who made Florida his home and is the parent of a proud Rattler graduate, we all hurt when the school on the highest of seven hills in Tallahassee is hurting. The administration, coaches, players, band and all who care about this great university understand the meaning behind the poems Invictus and See It Through. A new day is dawning and the Rattler nation will STRIKE, STRIKE, and STRIKE AGAIN!!
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