A year ago, Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium could have been confused with an Ole Miss football setting for Jackson State’s homecoming. Well, maybe not.
The house wasn’t packed, but the crowd was as big as Arkansas-Pine Bluff had seen in recent years. The trick for the Golden Lions was to overcome losing a 28-27 game to Alabama A&M — heard enough about that game, haven’t you? — and play a good game in front of 38,722 fans.
To do that, UAPB would really have to click on offense and its defense would have to find an answer for Jackson State’s passing game.
It didn’t happen. Jackson State rolled up 486 total yards and Casey Therriault completed 17 of 22 passes in a 48-10 victory. That sunk UAPB to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the SWAC and moved Jackson State to 3-1 in the SWAC.
It’s funny how some things about this Saturday’s game are similar to that contest inside Ole Miss’ former off-campus home. UAPB again is playing Jackson State and coming off a loss — this one to a much better Tennessee State squad. The Lions are going in with 3-2 overall and 2-1 conference records, and the Tigers are 2-3 — 2-1 in the SWAC.
To Lions fans, that’s eerily similar.
What the Lions want to see differently is an ability to shut down an explosive passing offense. Jackson State doesn’t rack up as many yards of offense as it did when Therriault was engineering the offense, but it can still move down the field with a reliable wide receiver in Rico Richardson. Plus, the Tigers have not scored fewer than 21 points since beginning conference play.
What will be different is that 38,722 won’t show up. That’s because Golden Lion Stadium seats up to 12,500 or 16,000, depending on which source you rely on.
But the crowd the Lions get should work greatly in their favor. It’ll be their first home game after spending the past three weekends on the road, so it’s likely a ticket hot enough to fill the home sides.
Jackson State is expected to bring a nice following to Golden Lion Stadium. Their fans are getting a bargain on the trip, which costs $40, but they won’t bring an intimidation factor into the game like they did last year.
Indeed, there’s not much of anything that intimidates the Lions about the Tigers — or vice versa. Both of them have been blown out by Tennessee State (Jackson State 38-12 and UAPB 40-13), and they’re both legitimate contenders in their respective SWAC divisions.
But it’s the similarities that make one want to stand out more than the other. And it’s a familiar scenario that UAPB will want to avoid.
I.C. Murrell is the sports editor of The Commercial. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.