Hornets vs. Tigers Preview: Bring on JSU


Mason T. Smith, Sports Editor

A matchup between the Alabama State University Hornets and the Jackson State University Tigers will take place on Saturday, March 20th. This will be the Hornets’ second game of the season and their first game since their loss to the Southern University Jaguars on February 26th.

The last time these two teams matched up on Oct. 12th, 2019, the Hornets won convincingly 31-16. A lot has changed since then. The most notable change is of course the hiring of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as the head coach of the Tigers. Sanders has brought a lot of attraction to not only his squad but the Southwestern Athletic Conference as a whole. He has led his team to a 2-0 record so far in the season, with a big-time win against Grambling State, the first time the Tigers have beaten them since 2012.

Despite coming off of a close loss to Southern last month, the Hornets showed a lot of promise. Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Nettles will be playing his first game since being named Offensive Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week for the SWAC after his performance versus the Jaguars, in which he threw for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is supported by a nice-looking running back duo of senior captain Ezra Gray and sophomore Jacory Merritt, who combined for 144 yards rushing and one touchdown in that game. The solid receiving core led by junior Michael Jefferson should keep the JSU secondary honest, with their ability to get open and take hits over the middle.

The Tiger defense will be looking to put a stop to the Hornets offense and will be led by senior linebacker Aubrey Miller Jr. Miller was named Defensive Player of the Week and Newcomer of the Week for his game against the Grambling State Tigers, where recorded 18 total tackles with a game-saving forced fumble to secure the victory for Jackson State. All-American junior linebacker Keonte Hampton is also a player to look out for on this JSU defense. He was not too far behind Miller in his 15 tackle performance versus Grambling.

The defense for ASU will have their work cut out for them going up against an explosive JSU offense. The Tigers have put up 400+ yards in both of their games this season with their sophomore quarterback Jalon Jones leading the pack. Jones accounted for 222 total yards and four touchdowns against Grambling State. He is joined in the backfield by sophomore running back Tyson Alexander, who rushed for 186 yards and one touchdown against Grambling. Wide receivers Warren Newman and Daylen Baldwin are threats to the ASU secondary due to their ability to get separation off the line and make big plays.

The Hornets are the sleeper team going into this game, with all the hype on Jackson State’s side, but on Saturday the only thing that matters is what happens in between the white lines. ASU will look to knock off the Tigers giving them their first loss and make some noise by getting their first win of the season. The two SWAC opponents will meet on Saturday at 2:00 on ESPN 3.