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Southern University safety Jakoby Pappillion (7) helps defensive back Jakobi Jones (31), right, celebrate Jones' interception on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021 in the first half of the Jaguars' Homecoming football game against Prairie View A&M at A.W. Mumford Stadium.

Southern coach Jason Rollins compared Saturday’s game with Jackson State to a homecoming. For 16 seniors, it’s an emotional departure.

For the Jaguar fans, it’s a chance to tweak their No. 1 out-of-state rival.

It all adds up to the type of football atmosphere that keeps fans coming back when the teams kickoff at 6 p.m. in A.W. Mumford Stadium.

It’s doubtful the game will produce a crowd to match the actual Oct. 23 homecoming in numbers (24,000-plus), but there should be enough interest to create some intensity.

“I see this as a homecoming: two powerhouse programs, two strong fan bases that are passionate about their teams,” Rollins said. “Being in close proximity to each other, it’s bragging rights for a year for one fan base and a family reunion."

Rollins hopes a rabid crowd comes into play to help the Jaguars (4-5, 3-3 in SWAC play) finish up in what has been an up-and-down season. Last week, as in all three of Southern’s home losses, the Jaguars played a strong first half only to have the game slip away in the second.

A similar performance could result in a blowout against the Tigers (8-1, 6-0), who can clinch their spot in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game with a victory. There’s also the matter of Southern’s eight-game winning streak in the series, including a 34-14 win in the spring.

JSU might not have coach Deion Sanders on the sidelines, but they’ve won the last three games without him as he recuperated from foot surgery. He was released from the hospital Wednesday, and running backs coach Gary Harrell was quoted in a Jackson Clarion-Ledger story as saying Sanders’ participation Saturday is “a “day-to-day” matter.

Harrell, who has filled in for Sanders, knows his team could be walking into an ambush. His strategy is to try and keep the fans out of it.

“Any time you go into anyone’s home you want to strike first and take the air out of the stadium,” Harrell said. “They have the fan support. We understand how the fans get involved.”

Southern hopes to get two running backs to return from injuries so it can rely on its ground game. Jerodd Sims and Kobe Dillon missed last week’s game, and their presence could make a difference in keeping the JSU pass rush under wraps. The Tigers lead the nation with 41 sacks and have 84 tackles for loss.

Defensively, Southern has to get a handle on Sanders’ son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who has thrown for 2,414 yards and 23 touchdown passes. The only team to stay within one score of JSU was Florida A&M, which fell 7-6 in the Orange Blossom Classic to open the season.

Southern's seniors will be honored in a pre-game ceremony. Several, such as guard Jonathan Bishop, got to extend their careers thanks to the NCAA’s COVID-19 waiver of eligibility in the spring season.

“It’s bittersweet; last game on the Bluff and I’ve been here five years,” Bishop said. “Everything comes to an end, but I’m still glad to be a Jag. I’ve played amazing ball here.”

Said defensive back Jakoby Pappillion: “It hit me right after the game last week. Coach said something about sending the seniors out with a winner. I put everything I had into these last five years, gave Southern everything I had. That’s what I’m going to do this Saturday.”