JACKSON,MS–Roughly 72 miles separate Jackson State and Alcorn State in distance from each other. However, when the two arch-rivals face each other on the gridiron for what some still consider as the “Capital City Classic” but now referred to as the Soul Bowl, it is more than just a season finale.
The Soul Bowl is an experience, one that goes well beyond the yards on a football field. It ignites a sense of deep pride in the players from both schools. The experience brings out a rich tradition of fierce competition that makes its way into the stands through fans trash talking and the bands going back and forth from start to finish, playing the latest hip-hop hits to old-school R&B and gospel selections that will leave you asking yourself, “Did I come for the competition on the field or the Zero Quarter or the 5th Quarter concert?”
The competitive nature is evident in every aspect. And for former JSU quarterback Casey Therriault, the Capital City Classic – the official title of the game before the 2012 season – was the biggest game that you did not want to miss.
“It was an amazing atmosphere,” Therriault said.
“The intensity from the fans is crazy. I mean, the only other games that were similar to this atmosphere were against Southern and Tennessee State. This was the game that brought everything out of you and brought everything together at the end of the season.”
Therriault, known as “The White Tiger” at JSU, spent two seasons (2010 and 2011) in a blue and white uniform, throwing for 7,227 yards, 58 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions while averaging 328.5 passing yards per game and a quarterback rating of 143.8.
But more importantly, the Grand Rapids, Michigan native was the next talented quarterback that JSU needed following the 2007 and 2008 seasons – two years where the Tigers made back-to-back SWAC Championship game appearances with quarterbacks Jimmy Oliver (2007) and Trae Rutland (2008).
— JBrooks02 (@JBrooks02) November 15, 2018
With hopes of winning a third-straight SWAC East crown in 2009, things did not go as planned as JSU finished 3-7 and 3-4 in conference play that included a 14-7 loss to Alcorn in the CCC that season.
In the meantime, Therriault was being groomed and sharpened to become JSU’s next great signal caller. After spending six months in prison in 2008 and accepting a plea deal for involuntary manslaughter for his involvement in a street fight that led to the death of Jonathan Krystiniak, Therriault put his past behind him.
In 2009, he led Grand Rapids Community College to a 9-1 record and an appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association championship game before making his way to JSU in 2010, where he would leave his mark in the books statistically and elevate the Tigers to where they were prior to the 2009 campaign.
In his two years, the Tigers defeated the Braves twice but both wins carry different memories for Therriault. In his junior season, he was on the verge of breaking records when he broke his collarbone in the game.
Casey Therriault sends his regards 😎 pic.twitter.com/ByR9esNB4d
— #JSUTakeOverLorman (@GoJSUTigers) October 27, 2018
“I thought I could get up off the field but I knew it was serious to where I would not be able to. I knew I had better call a timeout,” Therriault said.
“We were trying to get into the national playoffs and in my mind, there was no way I could come out of this game.”
Therriault was close to all of his teammates but a had special connection with his tight end Renty Rollins and wide receivers Keenan Tillman and Marcellus Wilder to name a few. He and Rollins would often joke around as Rollins would tell him that he could play the quarterback position.
“Renty and I were best friends,” Therriault said.
However, when Rollins opportunity to get in at quarterback presented itself against Alcorn when Therriault went down, Rollins did not have the best of luck.
“It was the immediate play after I got hurt,” Therriault said.
“Renty got in at quarterback for the first play of his quarterback career and fumbled the snap. Alcorn took over on our 10. He (Renty) was like, ‘Dawg, he snapped it too early.” Despite the miscue, JSU defeated Alcorn 27-14.
For Therriault, the 2011 matchup was one filled with redemption as he set a record for the most passing yards in a JSU-Alcorn game, throwing for 539, four touchdowns and two interceptions as Jackson State whooped Alcorn 51-7.
“It felt good getting to walk off the field early from that victory and good seeing everything come full circle,” Therriault said.
“I wanted to be remembered and I wanted my teammates and me to go out with a bang.”
While Therriault left his mark in JSU history, the only thing that he wanted more was to win a championship, something that former defensive end and linebacker Javancy Jones wanted to do as well.
Blue and white will forever flow through my veins💉💉 pic.twitter.com/xAka0DLoSm
— CoachJavancyJones (@TheRealJavJones) November 16, 2018
But for Jones, beating Alcorn was part of the process and always felt like a championship-caliber game that every player lived for.
“It’s like Alcorn slapped your mother and you never got revenge,” Jones said.
“It’s like someone dropped your plate at Thanksgiving and you had the last piece of sweet potato pie.”
Dear Alcorn Football team,
This Saturday is not a football game but a street fight. You need to step on their necks & stand there until the final buzzer. I want them limping off at halftime & being carried off by the time we play the Ode. Next text….
— Pamela Segrest (@thepamsegrest) November 12, 2018
Jones first season at JSU was in 2013, the final year of the Rick Comegy coaching era and the last time the Tigers made a SWAC title appearance. In his freshman season in comparison to the rest of his time in a blue and white uniform, playing against Alcorn was not the same.
“My first time ever playing in the Soul Bowl wasn’t how it should have been,” Jones said.
“We already had our position in the SWAC locked up, so we didn’t play our starters that much. We wanted to win but we all knew the bigger goal.”
Then, the bigger picture being Jackson State would face a Southern University team in the conference title game a couple weeks after the Soul Bowl. As a result, the Braves defeated the Tigers 48-33 in Jackson and the Tigers lost to the Jaguars 34-27 in the SWAC Championship game two weeks later.
That season, JSU finished 8-4 and 8-1 in conference play, with their only conference loss coming against Alcorn. The 2013 campaign did not end the way Jones envisioned, but he became a household name on defense.
Even more, he played on a team that featured an offense that was led by signal caller Clayton Moore, who Jones has much respect for.
“Playing with Clayton was great and he was part of my rivalry in high school football,” Jones said.
“I had been around various quarterbacks but none had the dog Clayton had. He played with a chip on his shoulder and made it happen, despite what he had been through. No disrespect to Casey because he a legend but my white tiger is Clayton Moore.”
My daddy got me going to this Alcorn vs. JSU game..🤨 & he don’t even watch football.
— August 18th👑💐✨ (@prettymyyaaaa) November 16, 2018
However, little did Jones know, his freshman season would be the only one where the Tigers would make a SWAC title game appearance. Luckily enough, in his four-year career, Jones received numerous recognition for his play on the field and JSU defeated Alcorn once in 2014 when the Tigers finished the season 5-7 under then first-year head coach Harold Jackson.
But for Jones, individual achievements and beating Alcorn were OK but not as important as winning a championship.
“I had numerous accolades, from All SWAC honors to All-American recognition but I’ll trade it all in to have a championship ring,” Jones said.
But through it all, the Macon, Mississippi native never gave up on the field as others would often see his hard work and dedication in every play, something that he believes could really help this year’s team on Saturday given the circumstances they have dealt with this season.
“Adversity is something we all have to deal with,” Jones said.
“Go out and give it your all like it’s your last play. Some people give some effort. A lot of people give a lot of effort but only a few people give maximum effort.”
When it comes to overcoming adversity and effort, former defensive end Teddrick Terrell knows a thing or two about these two concepts.
Terrell, who played from 2012 to 2015, witnessed the last two SWAC title game appearances (2012, 2013) as a player before his final two years consisted of fighting through adversity while still giving maximum effort as the Tigers finished 5-7 and 3-8.
Despite the team success early in his career versus the struggles in the second half, playing against Alcorn was a game that “lived up to the hype” for Terrell.
“In each of the four games I played them (Alcorn), in a way, it made me feel as if I was being written in the history books of this rivalry,” Terrell said.
“Something different happened every time we played them. As a player, you get the chills from the emotions to the trash talk from fans and the pressure, it’s like a movie with everyone’s competitive nature shown.”
Like other former JSU players have mentioned, playing against Alcorn made them bring out their best. And for Terrell, he was no different.
Mane I’ve never been this excited for a football game ! The whole school need to be at Alcorn Saturday !
— Jay (@Itsjaysnation) November 11, 2018
However, in his first experience playing against Alcorn, the Jackson, Mississippi native finally got a good dose of the disrespect coming from the opposing team.
“In 2012, we pulled into the stadium in Lorman and the fans were surrounding the bus, beating on the bus, flipping us off and using abusive language,” Terrell said.
“In my head, I had never seen this before but we made our presence felt as we shook the bus from side to side and they moved because they thought we were going to tilt ourselves over.”
Despite the pregame shenanigans, the Tigers defeated the Braves 37-11 and went on to play in the SWAC Championship game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, losing 24-21.
Two years later as a junior, Terrell and the Tigers played the Braves again in Lorman after losing 48-33 in the 2013 edition of the Soul Bowl. Alcorn was headed to the SWAC Championship and Jackson State looked to beat its rival before the Braves eventual victory in the SWAC title game against Southern.
And for Terrell, playing against Alcorn in 2014 was by far his favorite.
“I loved the entire 60 minutes of that game,” Terrell said.
“In 2013, Alcorn had these players who did their ritual like dance on our logo so we had to return the favor. We brought our sledgehammer wrapped and taped in nothing but JSU stuff and waited right before the coin toss and slammed their logo with the sledgehammer and the energy skyrocketed on both sides.”
That energy helped Terrell and his teammates defeat Alcorn 34-31, a much-needed victory against their rival during an up-and-down season.
On Saturday, the Tigers and the Braves will battle in another edition of the Soul Bowl with a lot on the line for both teams. For Alcorn, it is familiar territory as the Braves look to get redemption in last year’s loss in the Soul Bowl and earn their fifth straight appearance in the SWAC Championship game.
As for Jackson State, the Tigers have a chance to get another win against their biggest rival and a chance to play for a SWAC title game on the line.
While these former players either played on teams that played in SWAC Championship games or had stellar careers for JSU, two things remained constant: They embraced the rivalry game and played on a team that defeated the Braves.
And for players like Terrell, the layer of his former team playing for a championship makes Saturday’s game just that much bigger for the players.
“This is the playoffs, win or go home for them,” Terrell said.
“Embrace the pressure. This is the game with the most adversity they will face. The sooner they get that first contact; they will release that pressure. Maintaining self-control will be important for them as momentum will be a major key in the game.”