In week 12, Jackson State played on arch-rival Alcorn State’s home field for the first time in 20 years.
Jackson State, playing on arch-rival Alcorn State’s home field for the first time in 20 years, punched its ticket for a return trip to the SWAC Championship Game with a 37-11 victory Saturday that gave the Tigers the East Division title.
The Tigers (7-4, 7-2 SWAC) will play West Division champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff for the SWAC crown at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 8. It will be the Tigers’ fourth appearance in the title game, their first since 2008. They won the SWAC championship game in 2007.
“It’s great,” said Jackson State coach Rick Comegy, whose team was picked to finish second behind Alabama State in the conference’s preseason poll of coaches and media. “It’s really gratifying. I couldn’t tell you how happy I am.”
Jackson State and Alabama State finished tied for the top spot in the East with 7-2 conference records, but the Tigers held the tie-breaker by virtue of their 35-21 victory against the Hornets last month.
Jackson State and Alcorn had played at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, Jackson State’s home field with the schools alternating as the home team, the previous 18 years in what was billed as the Capital City Classic. Alcorn decided to return the game to Casem-Spinks Stadium, its on campus stadium this year and call it the Soul Bowl, upsetting Jacksonians who take exception to having to drive 90 minutes “to the country’’ for a game.
The trip didn’t faze the team, however. The Tigers, who have won 13 of the last 18 games in the series and the last three in a row, used a pulverizing running game to put away the Braves (4-7, 4-5 SWAC). They chewed up Alcorn’s defense for 243 yards on the ground, led by Rakeem Sims with 152 on 26 carries. Tommy Gooden added 64 on just eight carries. Gooden scored a pair of touchdowns and Sims scored once.
The standing room only crowd of more than 30,000 fans – mostly Alcorn supporters – sensed and upset as the third quarter began. Jackson State was clinging to a 6-3 lead thanks to quarterback Clayton Moore’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Rico Richardson in the first quarter.
But things began to unravel for the Braves on their first possession of the second half. They went three-and-out and were forced to punt from their eight-yard line. Linebacker Ryan Griffin blocked Marcquiso Jean’s punt and Richardson fell on the ball in the end zone. The touchdown started a barrage of 21 unanswered points in a six-minute span for Jackson State that doomed Alcorn to defeat.
Alcorn went three-and-out again on its next possession. Coach Jay Hopson switched punters, but the results weren’t much better. Tollette George got off a 16-yard kick that was downed at Alcorn’s 30. From there it took the Tigers four plays and one minute, 44 seconds to score on Gooden’s 11-yard touchdown run for a 20-3 lead.