Injury plagued Tigers lose big on Senior Day

TSU footballThe Tennessee State Tigers (6-4) got off to a 4-0 start, climbing to No. 25 in the FCS rankings. Since then they’ve loss four of their last six games. Three of the losses have come within the conference. Last Saturday evening, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (4-6) traveled 80 miles to put a thumping on the Big Blue. Final score, 44-16. This was Tech’s first win at Hale Stadium since 1995 and only the third ever at Hale. It also marked their biggest win over the Tigers since 2001.

Tennessee Tech took the opening kickoff, going on a 10-play, 75-yard drive for a 7-0 lead. The Tigers added a field goal shortly thereafter, but that would be it, at least in the first half. The Golden Eagles then scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter, leading 27-3 at halftime. Michael Birdsong recorded three total touchdowns—two in the air, one on ground. Birdsong was 14 of 22 passing for 168 yards. He also had six carries for 77 yards. His counterpart, Yeedee Thaenrat rushed for 164 yards and a score. Dontez Byrd caught nine passes for 112 yards and a touchdown for the Golden Eagles.

It didn’t get much better for the Tigers in the second half. They couldn’t get the ball in the end zone and they couldn’t keep Tech’s offense off the scoreboard. Quarterback Ronald Butler did not play well. He threw an interception at the start of the game. He also had a fumble in the second quarter. Butler finished 16 of 31 for 202 yards through the air and one touchdown. He was also sacked four times. The Tigers scored their lone touchdown midway through the fourth quarter when Butler connected with Steven Newbold for 22 yards, making it 37-16 at that point. The Golden Eagles answered on their very next drive with Birdsong’s 14-yard TD run.

Although strapped with injuries, TSU’s defense has given up over 1000 yards of total offense and 84 points in the last two games. The Tigers were playing without five key starters. However, coach Rod Reed is still very disappointed.

“We are playing very undisciplined football,” said Reed. “That was uncharacteristic of a defense I’m associated with.”

To make matters worse, their best player, defensive end Ebo Ogundeko, re-injured his left elbow in the first half. Ogundeko will have to undergo surgery after the season.

The field goal kickers for both teams were tremendous. Tennessee Tech’s Nick Madonia made three of four field goals, with a long of 57 yards. TSU’s Lane Clark connected on a 55-yard field goal, his fourth of 50-plus yards this season. Clark ended with three of three made field goals.

Nine seniors were honored before the game, all serving as captains. The Tigers travel to Cape Girardeau this weekend to face Southeast Missouri in the final game of the regular season.