Looking for unique circumstances? Saturday night, go ahead and take a peek inside A.W. Mumford Stadium.
It’ll be a virtual treasure trove.
Sure, Southern and Jackson State - two old archrivals, two of the brand names in black college football - have faced each other 55 times. But they’ve never played in a game quite like this one.
This summer, Southwestern Athletic Conference presidents and commissioners voted to ban SU and JSU from their league’s championship game - after the NCAA made both teams ineligible for postseason play because of their continued poor showings on the Academic Progress Rate.
Three months before the season began, the Tigers and Jaguars already knew they’d wind up ringless, no matter how well they played.
So go ahead. When Southern (1-1, 1-0) hosts Jackson State (2-0, 0-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday, feel free to call it the “IneligiBowl.”
Just don’t call it a meaningless game.
In the view of second-year SU coach Stump Mitchell, the unique circumstances make Saturday’s meeting even more meaningful than usual.
“Oh, no question, it is,” Mitchell said Monday. “If either one of the two teams go undefeated in the SWAC - and that’s a tall order in itself, but you’ve got to think about it - no matter what else happens, they can rightfully say, ?We should have been (champions).’
“Believe what you want to believe. If either one of the teams go undefeated - again, that’s a tall order, but you’re not going to be able to tell their fans anything any different.”
Championships aside, Saturday’s game figures to offer quite the atmosphere.
First of all, it’s Southern and Jackson State. According to SWAC records, SU leads the all-time series by the slimmest of margins, 28-27.
Second, everyone remembers last year’s meeting. It was, without much doubt, one of the most exciting games in recent SWAC history.
Regardless of allegiance, the 42,053 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium got their money’s worth in the final three minutes, when the teams combined for four touchdowns and four lead changes.
It began with Richard Wilson’s 60-yard punt return with 2:59 remaining, giving SU a four-point lead - and moments later, after JSU reclaimed the lead on a TD with 38 seconds left, SU quarterback Jeremiah McGinty stunned the home crowd, throwing to LaQuinton Evans for a 64-yard score that gave Southern another, seemingly insurmountable four-point lead with 19 seconds left.
Two plays later, JSU quarterback Casey Therriault found Rico Richardson, who made a leaping catch and evaded three tacklers for a 28-yard score with 2 seconds left.
The Tigers won 49-45. And no one in Southern gear could believe it.
“I think it’s going to be a high-emotion game, because ... we dodged a bullet last year,” JSU sixth-year coach Rick Comegy said. “I think they felt they should’ve come out with a win. We went for it and we got it, but I thought they had it in the midst of their hands, and we dodged a bullet. So I think they’re going to be confident they can come out and get this win.”
If nothing else, Southern fans should be fired up for JSU’s visit.
The Tigers have played at A.W. Mumford Stadium only twice since 1998 - and their last visit, in 2007, was memorable. Comegy made sure of that, intentionally or not, well before his team arrived.
That week, Comegy - who had never coached or played at Mumford - said he’d been told that Mumford Stadium was “hostile,” adding that “a lot of people are not taking their families.”
The SWAC reprimanded Comegy. He apologized, and JSU’s then-president at the time, Ronald Mason Jr., issued a statement, regretting “any misunderstanding caused.”
In one of life’s little ironies, Mason is now president of the Southern University System.
Monday, however, Comegy made sure he did nothing to fan flames.
“I just think football is football, no matter where you’re playing. You just go down and play the game,” he said. “We can’t worry about what goes around the game. We’ve got to worry about execution, and if we go down and do that, we should be fine.”