After the Tennessee State University football team scored 34 unanswered points and survived a late rally to defeat Tennessee Tech in Cookeville last weekend, the Tigers are in St. Louis this weekend to face an old HBCU rival, the Central State University Marauders.
TSU won 41-21 Saturday night in front of 10,044 spectators and a national ESPN3 audience—and is looking to win big in the mid-west. Against Tech, the TSU offense set season highs in total yards (438), passing yards (343) and points (41) on the way to their first Ohio Valley Conference victory of the season.
Tennessee Tech (2-2, 0-1 OVC) took the ball on the game’s opening drive and recovered a fumble in the end zone to put the Golden Eagles ahead 7-0 with nine minutes left in the first period. The touchdown signified the first points that the Big Blue defense had surrendered in the first quarter this season and the first time since last year’s game against TTU that the Tigers had allowed a touchdown on the opponent’s opening possession.
TSU (3-1, 1-0 OVC) answered on its first offensive series as quarterback Ronald Butler engineered an impressive eight-play, 79-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 47-yard pass to Ryan Mitchell. Butler’s scoring toss knotted the score at seven for TSU’s first touchdown pass of the season and the first of his and Mitchell’s careers.
TSU went ahead 14-7 to start the second quarter, and a 39-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey gave TSU a 10-point cushion at halftime with a 17-7 lead.
Michael German came in at quarterback to begin the second half. Midway through the third quarter, TSU safety David Van Dyke picked up his FCS-leading fourth interception of the season. German led a scoring drive on TSU’s next offensive series that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Godfrey that made the score 20-7 with 5:24 left in the third period.
On their following possession German completed a deep pass to Leonard for an 80-yard touchdown bomb that put TSU up by 20. German found Leonard again early in the fourth quarter and Leonard’s three-yard grab capped off a nine-play drive that spanned 58 yards and put the Tigers up 34-7.
TTU scored a touchdown with 7:27 minutes left, and then recovered a fumble on TSU’s next offensive play to set up another Tech touchdown with just over two minutes left to pull TTU within 13 at 34-21. German found Lavatiae Kelly wide open for a 43-yard pass for the game’s final touchdown.
German completed 8-of-14 passing for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly had a game-high six receptions for a career-high 95 yards.
A.C. Leonard caught five passes for a career-high 122 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Samquan Evans paced the TSU defense, setting a personal-best with eight stops and added 2.5 tackles for loss.
The 20th Gateway Classic will be held at 2 pm on Saturday, September 28, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Listen live on 102.1 FM The Light, in Nashville.