It’s been a long time coming, but the TSU Tigers (10-3) are once again on the road for a second round playoff game. The No. 17 ranked Tennessee State football team won its first playoff game since 1986 with a 31-0 victory at Butler University in Indianapolis on Nov. 30.
TSU alumnus and NFL Hall of Famer Richard Dent on the TSU sidelines probably inspired the TSU defense, which held the Bulldogs (9-4) to 257 yards of total offense, forced three turnovers and helped the team record its first playoff shutout. The TSU offense gained 415 yards and redshirt junior quarterback Michael German completed 14 of his 24 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Tim Broughton rushed for 80 yards on nine carries for an 8.2 average.
German hit receiver Ryan Mitchell for a 25-yard TD late in the opening quarter, capping off a long 17-play, 82-yard drive in which German was six-of-nine for 64 yards. The score, his 43rd career TD, put German sixth on the school’s all-time passing touchdown list, and gave TSU a 7-0 lead.
A 45-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey midway through the second quarter, set up by a 19-yard pass to Wesley Samuels and a 15-yarder to fellow tight end A.C. Leonard, put TSU ahead 10-0.
Less than a minute before halftime, German hit Wesley Samuels for a 17-yard TD to take a 17-point lead into halftime—a halftime without the Aristocrat of Bands, who did not make the trip.
Daniel Fitzpatrick recorded his FCS-leading seventh interception of the year and raced 26 yards for his third touchdown of the season early in the third quarter. The pick-six putting TSU firmly in control at 24-0.
Freshman QB Ronald Butler came in and quickly engineered a four-play, 42-yard drive culminating in a 21-yard TD pass to Mitchell. The PAT ended the scoring at 31-0 with 5:07 left in the third, giving Godfrey his seventh point of the game. That made the senior Tennessee State’s all-time leader in career points at 307, breaking the 40-year-old record held by Alfred Reese, who lettered from 1969-72.
Butler had one final chance to get on their scoreboard with a 31-yard field goal attempt late in the game, but it went wide left, preserving the Tigers’ shutout and extending TSU’s season. TSU notched a 10th victory for the 12th time in school history.
In other playoff games, SC State and Bethune Cookman of the MEAC both lost in the 1st round, while all three OVC teams play in the second round this weekend, including Jacksonville State (10-3), who plays at McNeese.
Tennessee State travels to Charleston, Ill. on Saturday, Dec. 7, for a 1 pm, CST, re-match with #two ranked Eastern Illinois. Listen live on FM 102.1 The Light. The Tigers defeated EIU 20-19 on Dec. 4, 1982 in Hale Stadium in the first round of the playoffs that year. The Tigers will be looking for payback after the Panthers won 34-16 at TSU’s Homecoming in October. The Aristocrat of Bands will be making the trip to support the team.
NOTE: Southern University plays Jackson State University in Houston on Dec. 7 for the SWAC Championship, and all 10 SWAC school marching bands are scheduled to perform there. The SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference) chooses not to participate in the NCAA tournament/playoff and has its own championship weekend each year.
TSU playoff history–the real history in brief
On the field, TSU has played games in the NCAA post-season tournament in the 1981, 1982, 1986, 1998, 1999, and 2013 seasons. Although the NCAA vacated the games played by the Tigers in 1981 and 1982 due to illegal player participation, those games were hard-fought battles, fiercely coached by Big John Merritt (1981-82), Bill Thomas (1986), L.C. Cole (1998-99), and now Rod Reed. Until this year, the official record lists four previous games, with a 1-3 win-loss record, but the actual on-field competitions numbered six, with a 2-4 record.
Concluding the 1981 season, TSU made their first-ever playoff appearance in Orangeburg, S.C. and lost a 26-25 thriller to South Carolina State. In 1982, TSU hosted Eastern Illinois in Hale Stadium on Dec. 4, and defeated the Panthers 20-19. The team traveled to Richmond, Ky. and lost 13-7 to Eastern Kentucky in a memorable game, regionally televised on ABC. It was memorable due to the Tigers inability to punch the ball in from one yard out on three tries inside the one yard line, and a post-game interview where coach Merritt called the officiating ref “piss-poor” live to millions of viewers.
In 1986, a full Hale Stadium with temporary seating for the bands saw TSU defeat Jackson State 32-23 in the first round. The campus war cry for a week after was “Nevada Reno, here we go!” as TSU traveled way out west, but succumbed 33-6 to the University of Nevada-Reno.
The Tigers ruled the OVC in 1998 and 1999, winning every conference game. The Tigers traveled to Boone, N.C. on Nov. 28, 1998 and lost 45-31 at Appalachian State with fewer than 4,000 in attendance. On Nov. 27, 1999, TSU (ranked #one in the nation and undefeated) hosted #16 North Carolina A&T in a battle of HBCUs billed as ‘The Black College Super Bowl’ and lost 24-14 to the Aggies in the then-new downtown coliseum now known as L.P. Field with 10,736 on hand.
On Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 TSU traveled to Indianapolis, Ind. and dominated Butler University, winning 31-0, with an official attendance listed at 1,928 (the smallest audience for a TSU game since Nov. 18, 2000 in Cape Girardeau, Mo. at SEMO). TSU plays EIU at Charleston, Ill. on Sat., December 7 at 1 p.m. in the second round.