JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - After playing their first four games of the 2023 season away from home, T.C. Taylor’s Jackson State Tigers finally hosted a game at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
It was a historic day for the Tigers, not only because Coach Taylor got his first home win in his home debut as the head coach of his alma mater, but kicker Leilani Armenta became the university’s first women’s player in Jackson State football.
JSU came out on top over the Wildcats 22-16, in a win that is written in the history books.
Below is everything Coach Taylor said after the victory in the W.C. Gordon Classic.
“It was a good win after being on the road and being back at home in front of the home crowd. [I’m] very excited for these players, our football team, the coaching staff, and the City of Jackson. Bethune came to play. They had a good plan. Hats off to the coaching staff and, their players played their butts off for four quarters. Great job by our defense. They came out and fought all night. I’ve been riding them all week about that performance last week at Texas State. I thought they came out and responded well. Anytime you hold an offensive team to 0-14 on third downs, that’s all I can ask for. I’m very pleased with the win.”
Taylor on using a female kicker:
“We had a situation where both of our kickers were injured: Matt Noll and Gerardo Baeza. [Baeza] went down a few weeks ago. This week, Matt Noll, our punter, was doing a heck of a job against Texas State. It was a situation where he ended up getting injured this week. We’re hoping to get him back after the break. Our back was against the wall, and I had to find somebody. I talked to Dr. Ted, our championship soccer coach, and they had a young lady we call now ‘L.L.’ She kicked it well in high school and had some teams looking at her coming out of high school. She came out and did what we asked her to do. I gave her an opportunity early on, but went to Emari [Matthews], one of our running backs, to try and get us through the football game. I’ve never experienced injuries in that position in all my years of coaching... But we did what we had to do, and that’s why I gave her that opportunity.”
Taylor’s conversation with her about her debut:
“I did. I talked to her the first day I got her out there for practice. She understood the responsibility. I also talked to her parents. They were very excited. She loves the game of football. Like I said, she played it in high school. She loves football and she wanted to try and help this football team. We’ll see where it goes going forward. It was a deal that she hadn’t kicked in a while. We tried her out there this week, and I didn’t want to put to much on her plate in an atmosphere like this, so we’ll see how it goes.”
How it feels to get his first victory at home:
This first win means a lot. To get that home opener and my first win. I’m very excited about it and what we’ve got going forward. We’re going to continue to work. We’re gonna take this one and put it behind us so we can get ready for the next one. I gotta get this football team to play well in all three phases. One week it’s the offense and the other it’s the defense. Special teams has to continue to get better. I’m still waiting to see our entire team dominate a football game.
Taylor on how he got effort from the defense before the game:
“Detail. We were detailed in the Texas State game. Be where you’re supposed to be. I thought we tackled a lot better tonight. We missed a lot of tackles against Texas State, but these guys came out tonight and had domination on their minds. I rode them pretty hard all week long. I could see in the first half that they had it under control. They got after the quarterback and got turnovers. [The fumble recovery] was a huge score. It was the difference in the game. I tell them that this team is led by the defense.”
Taylor on what he told defensive lineman Athen Smith after he recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown:
“I told the defense all week that if we score, we’re gonna have some fun. They played with that energy. I told Athen that I was excited for him. He works his butt off. He doesn’t talk. He just goes out there and works. But when he does talk, it’s meaningful words. When you hear him saying something, it matters at the point. I’m just happy for him because he has been working his butt off the past couple of weeks and really doing it the right way.”
On quarterback Jason Brown’s performance:
“It was disappointing to me. I thought they gave us the opportunity for us to take advantage of some things. They played a lot of cloud coverage on the back end. We gotta be better there. With Irv [Mulligan] running the ball like he did and guys stacking the box, we got to exploit the back end. We have some guys that can fly, but we gotta be better there. We gotta be able to throw the ball around the yard. On third down, that is when you usually get your throws in, and looking back, we were 4-15. So we gotta work on that as well.
Taylor on his emotions leading his team out of the tunnel for the first time at home:
“It was big emotions. I have huge expectations for myself and this football team. When I ran put that tunnel and saw all of the red in the stands, it brought back memories of when I was a player and when I used to lead the football team and the young men out of the tunnel. But after a while, when the smoke clears, it’s time to play football.”
Taylor when asked if James Carson should be recognized more:
“’Big Daddy’ was a great coach. I learned a lot from him as a player. He rode me my first couple of years as a player. He was very hard on me, but he would always tell me why. When you think about his years as a defensive coordinator, you’re talking about one of the greatest to ever do it. He came through this program at an HBCU with W.C. No doubt. I’ll never forget some of the things I’ve learned from him and the things we’ve talked about. He’s one of the greats in Jackson State’s coaching history right there with the W.C.’s and all of those names. I think a lot of him.”
The Tigers will have a week off before hopping on the road again to travel to Mobile, Alabama, to face Alabama A&M on October 7 in the Gulf Coast Challenge.
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