TSU starts 2-0 with big Southern Heritage Classic win

TSU QB O'Shay Ackerman Carter back to throw SHC photo by Sam Jordan tsutigers.com

TSU QB O’Shay Ackerman Carter back to throw SHC.
photo by Sam Jordan tsutigers.com

The Tennessee State University football Tigers went down to Memphis to face the Tigers of Jackson State University for the 51st time on Saturday night, September 10. The TSU victory in front of an announced crowd of 46,263 moved the team to 2-0 for the second year in a row and the third time under seventh-year Head Coach Rod Reed. TSU improves to 28-21-2 in the all-time series and has won five in a row against Jackson State of the SWAC. TSU is now 16-11 in the Southern Heritage Classic.

Southern Heritage Classic Player of the Game O’Shay Ackerman-Carter finished 14-for-18 for 227 yards with two passing touchdowns and his first career rushing touchdown to lift the Tennessee State football team to the 40-26 victory over Jackson State at the Liberty Bowl. TSU trailed Jackson State 23-19 at the half before outscoring JSU 21-3 in the second half to pull away. The TSU victory dropped Jackson State to 0-2.

Defensively for TSU, Ebenezer Ogundeko posted a team-best 11 tackles with Ezra Robinson adding six tackles and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown.

Erick Evans runs for a TSU TD photo by Sam Jordan tsutigers.com

Erick Evans runs for a TSU TD photo by Sam Jordan tsutigers.com

“The resilience of the defense starts with Chris Collins, Trevion Duncan and me as well,” said defensive end Ebo Ogundeko. “This was the first real test that we faced as a defense, and we did a good job showing the maturity of the defense.”

Jackson State scored first, as Josh Miller scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. The JSU Tigers led 13-0 just over five minutes into the contest when Dan Williams converted a diving catch into a 30-yard scoring play.

TSU responded on the following series and Erick Evans got the drive started with a nine yard carry and capped off the drive with a five yard blast through the left side of the line to pull the Tigers to within seven at 13-6.

TSU went back to the air and needed just three plays to reach the end zone. Ackerman-Carter hit Steven Newbold down the right side for 49 yards to the JSU 13. Newbold went over the defender and pulled down a pass with one hand off the defenders back to even the score at 13-13.

“It was a big game for us,” said Newbold. “This is a rivalry game. Everybody just came in and stepped up when it was time to step up.”

JSU regained the lead midway through the second at 20-13. Evans got the Tigers back within one on a two-yard plunge. The extra point was blocked making the score 20-19 with 2:36 to go in the half. JSU made its way down the field for a 38-yard field goal to increase their lead to 23-19 at the break.

JSU opened the second half with a 37-yard field goal to take a seven point lead. After that it became all Tennessee State as they scored 21 unanswered points.

Stephen Rowland in action for TSU in SHC photo by Sam Jordan tsutigers.com

Stephen Rowland in action for TSU in SHC photo by Sam Jordan tsutigers.com

Ezra Robinson put the Tigers in front for the first time when the senior cornerback jumped a LaMontiez Ivy pass and returned it 25 yards to the house just eight seconds after TSU had tied the game.

“They ran that play earlier, and I was sitting on it,” said Robinson of his interception for a touchdown. “When I saw the formation come back again I recognized it. I was able to jump the route, and I just did what I could with the ball.”

Ackerman-Carter closed out the scoring with a one yard quarterback sneak early in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers are back in action this weekend for a road test at Bethune-Cookman of the MEAC. Tennessee State leads the all-time series 6-2, while in their last meeting Bethune-Cookman won 12-9 in the 2013 John Merritt Classic on Spetember 1 that year. This year’s matchup is Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:00 p.m. CDT in Municipal Stadium (capacity 9,601) in Daytona Beach, Florida. Listen live on FM 102.1 The Light.

Tennessee State is the only remaining undefeated team in the OVC following its 40-26 victory over rival Jackson State in the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis on Saturday night. The Tigers are averaging 42.0 points/game which is 13th nationally (but fifth among teams who have played two FCS opponents). O’Shay Ackerman-Carter has completed 64 percent of his passes and accounted for five touchdowns.

Junior defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week after tallying 11 tackles, 3.0 tackles-for-loss, 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble, quarterback hurry, pass breakup and a blocked kick. He currently ranks first nationally in sacks (2.25/game) and fifth in tackles-for-loss (2.8/game). Overall the TSU defense limited Jackson State to just 227 yards of total offense. TSU currently ranks first nationally in fumbles lost (0), third in sacks (4.0/game), fourth in total defense (197.5 yards/game) and kickoff returns (31.25 yards/return), sixth in rushing defense (54.5 yards/game), turnovers lost (1) and sacks allowed (0) and ninth in passing efficiency (84.43)

TSU opponent Bethune-Cookman saw its season opener cancelled against Alcorn State due to weather issues. It was the first cancelled game for BCU since 1983. Instead the Wildcats opened the year last week with a 41-20 loss at FBS North Texas. Bethune-Cookman struck first in the game as Frank Brown returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown (the first punt return for a score for the program since 2009). But after that North Texas scored 31 unanswered points to put the game out of reach. The Wildcats added a defensive score in the third quarter as Diquan Richardson returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown and later blocked a punt deep in Mean Green territory. He finished the game with nine tackles and also had two pass breakups.

Head coach Terry Simis joined the BCU staff in 2010 and took over as head coach in 2015. He guided the team to a 9-2 overall and 7-1 conference record in being named MEAC Coach of the Year. Overall he has been part of a program that has won or shared five conference titles over the past six years.