The Deion Sanders era at Jackson State ends with a loss as JSU fell to NC Central in the Celebration Bowl
The Deion Sanders era at Jackson State ended with a loss.
In Sanders’ last coaching at JSU before heading to Colorado on a full-time basis, the Sanders Tigers were upset 41-34 in overtime by NC Central in the Celebration Bowl, the HBCU National Championship.
The loss marked the second consecutive season that Jackson State’s season ended in a Celebration Bowl defeat.
This year, JSU entered the game undefeated—but NC Central sent Coach Prime to Boulder with a heartbreaking defeat.
NC Central was the sharper team early on and jumped out to a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter. This lead will not last long. Jackson State rallied to a 14-10 lead and then took a 21-17 advantage going into halftime.
With Shedeur Sanders, son of Deion, leading the way as a quarterback at JSU, the Tigers seemed to have control. But NC Central didn’t back down. The Eagles outscored Jackson State 9-0 in the third quarter to overturn that deficit to 26-21 entering the fourth quarter.
A perfectly executed fake gamble played a major role in NC Central’s comeback.
JSU would respond early in the fourth when Sanders hit former #1 recruit Travis Hunter for an 18-yard touchdown to put the Tigers up 27-26 with 11:25 to go.
It was the first of three epic fourth quarter touchdown drives. On the ensuing possession, NC Central marched 73 yards on 11 plays while taking nearly seven minutes off the clock to go ahead 34-27 with 4:31 to play.
At that point, Jackson State needed to rally again. And the Tigers leaned on the Sanders-to-Hunter relationship to keep their hopes alive.
On the final play of regulation, Sanders delivered a beautiful touchdown pass to Hunter on fourth-and-19. Hunter caught the pass as time expired to miraculously send the game into overtime.
Once the game reached overtime, NC Central was not demoralized by allowing a game touchdown. The Eagles offense opened overtime with a touchdown when quarterback Davius Richardson fell from a yard.
Jackson State had to score to keep the game alive and advance to the NCCU 1-yard line. However, on 3rd and goal from 1, Hayden Hagler dropped what could have been the tying score. Then on fourth down, Sanders felt pressure and his throw fell to the end zone incomplete.
With this shortcoming, NC Central got the downtime to take away the upset.
For Deion Sanders, it’s a disappointing way to end his three-year tenure at Jackson State. The Tigers finished with a 27-6 record during that span with two SWAC championships. However, back-to-back Celebration Bowl losses will certainly take a toll when Sanders moves to the Pac-12.
Sanders has pulled off his double entender since he was officially announced as Colorado’s coach back on December 3. The announcement came after JSU won the SWAC Championship title.
Since then, Sanders has been bouncing back and forth from Jackson to Boulder as he tries to build Colorado’s roster with the transfer window open and an early signing period on the horizon. With his assignments at Jackson State now complete, Sanders’ operation will head to Colorado on a full-time basis.
Sanders has already said that Shedeur is going to Colorado with him. How many more Jackson State players will follow Sanders to Colorado remains to be seen.
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