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South Carolina State "Mob" Involved in Spoiling Coach Deion Sanders' Atlanta Homecoming Celebration

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

Decobie Durant, Cory Fields, and Shaquan Davis address the media after their 31-10 victory over Jackson State University. Photo by Ernest Ricks.

After winning his first SWAC Championship in less than a full year as Jackson State University head football coach, followed by flipping the number 1 recruit in the nation, WR/DB Travis Hunter, it seemed almost inevitable that the favored Jackson State Tigers and their coach Deion Sanders would be on the podium holding up the Cricket Celebration Bowl Trophy. Throughout the course of the season, the Tigers had one of the toughest defenses in the SWAC, not giving up more than 21 points to any opponent, not even the favored University of Louisiana-Monroe. After the SWAC Championship, Coach Deion Sanders even went so far as to say that no team could score more than 21 points on their defense. Why wouldn't he believe that to be so, it was so against Delta State, Mississippi Valley, Texas Southern, and Southern University, all schools that teetered on the 21-point barrier but never crossed it. Going into the contest Jackson State truly believed that even when their offense, led by Jerry Rice Award Winning Freshman QB Shedeur Sanders, was sputtering, they could rely on their great special teams play and their stellar defense to win games.

South Carolina State came in as a 10.5-point underdog in the contest and had losses to Alabama A&M, Clemson, NM State, Florida A&M, and North Carolina A&T. However, they went 5-0 in conference play and possessed some amazing offensive firepower. SC State put that firepower on display in their final contest of the season against Norfolk State with QB Cory Fields throwing for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns in the game. Their major weapon on offense, 6'5" wide receiver Shaquan Davis, also put on a show in that game with 9 receptions for 141 yards and 3 touchdowns. That output by Davis was almost like a foreshadowing of things to come in the Celebration Bowl.

Coach Deion Sanders arrives to Jackson State's practice at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Photo by Ernest Ricks

The Celebration Bowl had all the pregame hype of any major college football event. There was the first "Radio Row" in the history of the Celebration Bowl, featuring major media personalities like Roland Martin, and even MTMV Sports made an appearance (lol). There were pre-game press conferences, and the first 15 minutes of both team practices were open to the media. It was probably during this time that the stark difference in media interest and team expectations was most evident. During the team practice for South Carolina State, media was sparse, and the rules were quite relaxed. During the practice, most writers and media outlets, including outlets like HBCU GameDay, were able to roam around the practice at their leisure and interact with coaches and players. The players were relaxed, joking, playing catch, taking pictures, and having a lot of fun. According to offensive line coach NaShan Goddard, the players were excited about the game but not intimidated by the hype surrounding Jackson State. He reminded me that earlier that season his team played against the Clemson Tigers, and though they loss 49-3, going through that fire prepared them for this moment. He told me his "Dirt Bags", the name he called the offensive line at SC State adopted from his time with the Super Bowl winning New York Giants, were ready. The team did not wear helmets or shells during the practice, but despite their relaxed look they were focused and according to defensive end Jeblonski Green they had been preparing for Jackson State for quite some time.

Coach NaShan Goddard prepares his "Dirt Bags" , freshman starter Eric Brown, along with his teammates Cam Johnson, Nick Taiste, Tison Gray, and Chris Simon, for battle at the Celebration Bowl. Photo by Ernest Ricks.

The Jackson State practice was much different. Media swarmed the practice and rules were put in place to control where and how the media could move about the practice field. The Tigers also looked different in practice as well wearing their beautiful "I Believe" helmets, red jerseys and gloves. The practice took on more of a serious

tone as one of their beloved coaches, Coach "O" stressed to us during the practice that, "this is a business trip", and that business-like tone permeated throughout the practice for the players. However, the presence of Robert Griffin III, AKA RG III, may have captured the attention of some players. Though, who could shock a team so used to seeing stars like the recently deceased hip hop artist Young Dolph and social media stars like Brittney Renner. The presence of media, the look of the team, the presence and confidence of Coach Prime, stealing headlines by flipping the number 1 recruit in the nation, and an undefeated SWAC record made it feel like it was just a matter of time before Jackson State was crowned champions, but there was still a game to be played.

Robert Griffin III , RG III, shares a moment with Coach "Prime", as Griffin prepares to commentate for the Celebration Bowl. Photo by Ernest Ricks.

During the game, the offensive flaws that plagued Jackson State in the SWAC championship started to become evident again. Though Jackson State got off to an early 7-0 lead, and dominated most of the first half, the offensive line of Jackson State started to show some of the inconsistencies that Jeblonski Green alluded to in his pre-game interview. During the interview, He suggested the offensive line of Jackson State had issues working together as a unit and they played a lot of "individual" ball. Problems like that hurts a team's ability to communicate about picking up blitzes and passing off defensive lineman on stunts. That major flaw became a key factor in the game as Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders was constantly harassed by "The Mob", the name adopted by the South Carolina State defensive line. The Mob played a huge role in causing a very inefficient day for Sanders, who only completed 16 of 36 passes, while throwing 2 very costly interceptions. The rushing game for Jackson State was non-existent as well as no runner had over 23 yards rushing. Meanwhile, the South Carolina State offense enjoyed an amazing second half, with QB Cory Fields throwing for a total of 166 yards and 4 touchdowns. Three of those four touchdowns were caught by the new record holder for receiving touchdowns in a Celebration Bowl, Shaquon Davis. Davis nearly broke the internet after doing Coach Deion Sanders signature touchdown celebration after one of his game changing touchdown receptions.

Similar to David vs. Goliath, the Tortoise vs. the Hare, or The New York Giants vs. the undefeated New England Patriots, a game Coach Goddard witnessed firsthand as a member of that Giants roster, the humble, yet confident, 7-5 South Carolina State Bulldogs and their legendary coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough left the HBCU football world stunned. They not only covered the spread, but they score 10 points more than Coach Deion Sanders said any team could score against his vaunted defense. In the post-game press conference, the South Carolina State players reminded the press of Coach Sanders words and how they had overcome that limit. Coach Sanders however, handled the loss with the upmost sportsmanship,

congratulating Coach Buddy Pough and their players for "kicking their butt". Coach Sanders also called for NFL scouts to take a hard look at SC State's star defensive back Decobie Durant, mentioning that the kid had "real NFL talent". On the other hand, Coach Buddy Pough, overcome with joy at times, said to those questioning his future at South Carolina State, that he would love to remain the coach of SC State for as long as the Bulldogs will have him on staff. For now, Coach Pough, "The Mob", "The Dirt Bags", and the entire South Carolina State Bulldogs family can proudly say they are the Black College Football National Champions.

Coach Oliver "Buddy" Pough addresses the media after his stunning victory over the favored Jackson State Tigers. Photo by Ernest Ricks.

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Dione became coach in September of 2020. That is over a year ago but the article says he has been coach less than a year. That is incorrect.

Replying to

Deion said himself that he arrived at Jackson in January.

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