Mississippi Valley State University kicks off its five-game spring football season with a visit to rival Jackson State on Sunday afternoon.
The Delta Devils are in search of their first win against the Tigers since 2014. It won’t be easy to snap their skid against first-year JSU coach Deion Sanders, but MVSU will be looking to build off of a near upset in their last meeting, a 31-28 overtime loss back in October of 2019.
“I watched the (JSU-MVSU) game from last year, and they were tough,” Sanders told the Clarion Ledger. “They like to run the ball. They’re physical up front.”
Former starting quarterback Dejerric Bryant accounted for all four Delta Devils touchdowns during their last matchup. This year, it’s up to Portland State grad transfer Jalani Eason to spark the offense under center. A dual-threat athlete, Eason already boasts 20 games of Division I FCS experience.
“He’s a guy who can not only run the ball, but throw the ball very accurately,” third-year MVSU coach Vincent Dancy told the Clarion Ledger. “That’s something we’ve been missing these past couple of years. Someone who can get the ball downfield as a passer, but also someone who can run the ball. We want to be more dynamic offensively, we want to be more explosive, and I think he gives us that opportunity.”
After starting their season with wins against Edward Waters and Grambling State, the Tigers (2-0) are favored by two touchdowns on Sunday. The Delta Devils, who finished last in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2019 and were picked to stay at the bottom in this year’s preseason poll, are embracing the underdog mentality.
“From hearing all the critics, people burying us again before they’ve even seen us, we’re already picked last again,” Dancy said. “The only way we can prove a point is to be seen. They understand that, and that alone drives these players, motivates these players to go out and be level-headed, to go out and stay humble, to go out and show the world Mississippi Valley State can go out and play with the best of them.”
Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium will be allowing 50% capacity, or about 22,000 fans, for the 2 p.m. matchup nationally televised on ESPN2.