TSU scared on Homecoming — pulls out win versus division foe

TSU's Sabree Curtis, Jr. stretches for the goal line and scores.

TSU’s Sabree Curtis, Jr. stretches for the goal line and scores.

At the beginning of the third quarter, the Tigers of Tennessee State (5-1) led the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky 35-3. With 1:03 left in the contest, the Colonels were on the TSU 17-yard line with a chance to score a touchdown, kick a field goal and tie the game to force OT, in what would have been an improbable comeback. It would not come to pass. Junior linebacker Chris Collins picked off Bennie Coney to seal it for the Tigers. The final score was 35-28. Tennessee State has scored 30 or more points in each game this season. The Tiger faithful rejoiced with relief as they exited Nissan Stadium on Homecoming.

Eastern Kentucky (2-4) scored 25 unanswered points in the second half to get within a touchdown, but couldn’t complete the comeback. Eastern opened the second half by driving 75 yards in nine plays to score its first touchdown of the game. Running back Kentayvus Hopkins finished it off with a three-yard touchdown run. Coming into Saturday’s game, EKU quarterback Bennie Coney had a quarterback rating of 164.40. Coney completed 29 of 45 passes for 350 yards, but zero touchdowns and four interceptions in this one. Ryan Markush caught two passes for 67 yards. Devin Borders hauled in six receptions for 60 yards. Daryl McCleskey, Jr. totaled 68 rushing yards on eight carries with a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 54 yards. McCleskey’s three-yard touchdown run with over five minutes to go in the contest would make it a seven-point margin.

The Colonels had three consecutive turnovers to start the game. The Tigers turned each of those into touchdowns, establishing a 21-0 lead early. Butler finished 13 of 24 for 181 yards for the Tigers. He rushed for 81 yards on five carries, scoring two touchdowns—including a 61-yarder. Andrew Knox and Butler both ran for scores in the first quarter. Early in the second, Ezra Robinson ended a 60-yard Eastern Kentucky drive by picking off Bennie Coney, returning it 93 yards, making it 21-0. Robinson finished with two interceptions.

Despite EKU’s 584 yards of total offense on Saturday, the Colonels couldn’t get out of their own way. It’s hard to win committing five turnovers. The Tigers are seventh in the nation in turnover margin.

TSU will be back in action at home, but on the road this week. They travel three miles up the street to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. This is Vandy’s homecoming. This occasional in-city rivalry game ought to be interesting, at least for a little while. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 pm.