Homecoming heartbreak for Big Blue

Photo:TSU Athletics

Photo:TSU Athletics

What a game more than 20,000 fans witnessed last Saturday night at Nissan Stadium. It was Tennessee State University¹s 85th homecoming, a homecoming unlike any other. However, the Panthers of Eastern Illinois (3-3,3-0) came to put a damper on it, and indeed they did. It took an extra period, but the Panthers came away victorious in overtime, 25-22.

“We had our chances,” Head Coach Rod Reed said at game’s end. Back and forth they went, for basically the entire contest. Both teams had numerous mishaps as well as missed opportunities. Although the Tigers (3-3,0-3) dominated time of possession, they were unable to amass more points on the scoreboard. With over 10 minutes left in the game, Panther running back Devin Church scampered in from 25 yards out to give Eastern Illinois a 22-19 lead. TSU answered right back, driving 32 yards on eight plays to set up a career-long 50 yard field goal by Lane Clark. This would tie the game at 22 and send it into OT.

Nick Bruno kicked a 26-yard field goal on the first drive in overtime for the Panthers, that ultimately was the game winner. Following the successful field goal, the Tigers of Tennessee State had a chance to tie or win the game, but Jourdan Wickliffe picked off Ronald Butler’s pass sealing the win for the team from ‘The Prairie State.’

Devin Church finished the game with 125 yards rushing on 17 carries and two touchdowns. Jalen Whitlow was 12 of 27 for 120 yards passing with a touchdown. He added another 34 yards on the ground for the Panthers.

Butler finished with 125 yards passing and 104 yards rushing (career high) with two touchdowns for the Tigers. The Tigers have another tough task in front of them as they go up to Richmond, Kentucky this Saturday afternoon to face Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels are first in the OVC and ranked #14 in the country. It’ll be an interesting one. Game time is 2 pm.