ATLANTA — Shaquan Davis broke out Deion Sanders’ signature touchdown celebration dance in the first half after he tied the game with his first touchdown.
It was a signal of confidence from MEAC champion South Carolina State, which didn’t back down from the spotlight surrounding the Cricket Celebration Bowl against Sanders’ Jackson State program this week.
South Carolina State, the winningest program in MEAC history in terms of conference titles with 18, pulled off a stunning 31-10 upset of Jackson State in the building where Sanders resides as a member of the Atlanta Falcons’ ring of honor.
It was the most lopsided game in the history of the Celebration Bowl, which began in 2015.
It’s the first HBCU national title since 2009 for the Bulldogs (7-5). And it’s the first Celebration Bowl loss in the first appearance for Jackson State (11-2), whose last HBCU national title was in 1996.
The South Carolina State defense stole the show by shutting down SWAC freshman of the year Shedeur Sanders, forcing the quarterback into multiple red-zone turnovers.
Here are three observations from the game:
Red-zone turnovers doom Jackson State
It wasn’t just that the Jackson State offense made mistakes, it was where they made them.
Late in the second quarter Shedeur Sanders fumbled on the Jackson State 3-yard line, setting up Davis’ first touchdown. Then he had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, resulting in an interception that gave South Carolina State first-and-goal on the 10-yard line at the beginning of the third quarter.
The blame doesn’t fall squarely with the freshman quarterback, who was under tremendous pressure most of the game. The Jackson State run game rendered the offense one dimensional, with 19 yards on 29 carries.
Shaquan Davis does Deion Sanders’ dance, sets Celebration Bowl record
Davis and his 6-foot-5 frame as a big red zone target proved to be the difference in the game. He grabbed three short touchdowns that swung the momentum in favor of South Carolina State. The three touchdown catches are the most in Celebration Bowl history.
But perhaps even more notable than the scores was Davis’ boldness to use Sanders’ signature touchdown celebration with the coach watching on the sidelines as South Carolina State proceeded to put his team away.
MEAC continues Celebration Bowl dominance
With the loss, SWAC teams are now 1-5 in the Celebration Bowl.
Coming into the game, it appeared this season would be different. North Carolina A&T, which won four Celebration Bowls, left the MEAC for the Big South conference, leaving an opportunity for the SAW. Jackson State won 11 games this season for the first time ever.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Deion Sanders, Jackson State crushed by South Carolina State in Atlanta