TSU devours Bethune- Cookman in season opener

DeVon Johnson celebrates touchdown catch in 34-3 win in the John Merritt Classic. (photo: TN State Athletics)

The Big Blue of Tennessee State University handled the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman with ease on this past Saturday, in the 20th edition of the John Merritt Classic game at Nissan Stadium. The final score was 34-3.

TSU took a 14-0 first quarter lead on Sophomore quarterback Michael Hughes’ 20-yard throw to Devon Johnson, and DeMarco Corbin’s one-yard burst into the end zone, after a Wildcat interception gave the Tigers a short field. Hughes threw for 170 yards and a touchdown on the day, while rushing for another. Demry Croft, a junior transfer from Minnesota, started the game at quarterback. Croft, ended the game eight of 14 for 154 yards. Treon Harris, last year’s junior transfer quarterback from Florida, now a senior and wide receiver, grabbed five balls for 81 yards.

The Big Blue scored 10 points in a span of 44 seconds in the fourth quarter. Antonio Zita pushed the lead to 27-3 with his second 23-yard field goal late in the contest. Just seconds later, Dajour Nesbeth picked off Akevious Williams, returning it 39 yards for the final score of the game.

This was a rout. The Wildcat offense managed just 244 total yards and could only deliver a career-long 46-yard Uriel Hernandez field goal out of two red zone possessions. Bethune-Cookman was just two of 13 on third down and zero of three on fourth down. After Hernandez’ field goal, the Tigers scored four more times, running away with the game. It could’ve been much worse. The score was 21-3 at the half.

A bright spot for the Wildcats came from their punter, Javaunie Francis. The senior had seven kicks for 309 yards, with a 44-yard average for each kick, including a long of 60 yards. Akevious Williams finished 13 of 23 for 156 yards with two interceptions. Trenton Bridges led the defense with nine tackles and a sack.

This marked the Wildcats’ largest margin of defeat against an FCS team since 2009.

The Tigers travel to Memphis this week to take on Jackson State in the Southern Heritage Classic. Game time is 6 pm on September 8.