Before the inaugural Classic, TSU coach Joe Gilliam Sr. said of Jackson State: “They have the arsenal. We don’t have too much.”
His opponent, JSU coach W.C. Gorden, wasn’t buying any of it: “Many of the things we do defensively, we learned from coach Gilliam.”
On game day, the polite trash talk evaporated, and the TSU players showed they did indeed have an arsenal of their own – and it was too much for whatever defensive lessons JSU had learned from the opposing coach.
Jackson State bulldozed its way to a 14-3 halftime lead, but then Tennessee State’s reserve quarterback, Jimmy Bethea, came into the game to take his first-ever snaps from center in a collegiate game.
He promptly threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in the third quarter.
The Southern Heritage Classic was off and running, much to the delight of the 39,579 fans in the stadium.