TSU wins thriller to open October

TSU kicker Lane Clark.(photo: tsutigers.com)

TSU kicker Lane Clark. (photo: tsutigers.com)

The Tennessee State University Tigers opened Ohio Valley Conference play with a thrilling come from behind 34-30 victory over UT Martin. A Kids’ Day crowd of 10,001 at Hale Stadium on Saturday witnessed the win, which helped the Tigers remain undefeated, improving to 4-0 and 1-0 in conference play. The Skyhawks fell to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in conference.

Kicker Lane Clark was the difference in the victory, scoring 10 points on the afternoon, including two amazing field goals for six of the points in the four-point win. The 5’11” junior from Hays, Kansas set a new TSU record with a 54-yard field goal in the 2nd quarter. Clark then booted a 57-yard field goal to extend the Tigers’ lead to 27-23 with 7:27 remaining. That kick is the longest for all levels of NCAA football this season. Clark is OVC Specialist of the Week and STATS FCS National Special Teams Player of the Week.

“We work on special teams every day,” Clark said after the game. “Kickoff, punt, everything…we put a lot of time and energy into it and tonight it showed. I was nervous. It was my first time taking a big kick like that. We practice it every day. I can’t say that it felt just like practice because it was in a game, but I knew I had it in me. I knew the big guys up front were going to protect me and protect the holder and it just worked out.”

After a spectacular half-time performance by the TSU Aristocrat of Bands, joined on the field by the members of five visiting high school marching bands, the Tigers took their first lead of the game, after trailing 16-10 at the break. Senior quarterback Ronald Butler teamed up with Steven Newbold for 22 yards and Rodney Morris for 43 more, setting up a Butler to Patrick Smith scoring play that moved TSU ahead 17-16.

UTM regained the lead on a seven yard pass from Troy Cook to Ben Axline. The Tigers answered as Butler found Sanders-McCollum from three yards out to make the score 24-23 in favor of the Tigers.

The defense stepped up again when David Kamara sacked Cook, causing a fumble recovered by Ebenezer Ogundeko. Clark then connected on the NCAA leading 57-yarder. That gave TSU a four point lead, 27-23, with just over seven minutes to play. Cook threw his fourth scoring pass of the game, to Londell Lee from 20 yards out, with 2:00 minutes left.

Trailing 30-27, Butler hit Smith for the game-winner with only 18 seconds remaining. Defensive back Terrell Bonds secured the victory with his third interception of the season. Smith finished the game with six catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns from Butler. Butler completed 17-of-24 passes for 223 yards and three TDs in his first start of the season.

The Tigers continue OVC play in Charleston, Ill. at Eastern Illinois at 6:00 pm CDT Saturday, Oct. 8. Listen live on FM 102.1 The Light.