Propelled by 447 yards of total offense, the TSU Tigers secured a victory over Mississippi Valley State in the 21st annual John Merritt Classic this past Saturday night at Nissan Stadium. The final score was 26-20. This was expected to be a cakewalk. The Delta Devils were 31-and-a-half point underdogs. However, this wasn’t easy by any stretch. Mississippi Valley State finished 20 yards shy of a major upset. They almost ruined the night dedicated to L.C. Cole and his 1999 OVC Champion Big Blue Tigers’ reunion—honored at halftime. It wouldn’t prove to be though. Chris Rowland and Cameron Rosendahl had just enough in the tank to get the Big Blue over the hump.
The first quarter was a defensive struggle. Both teams had a tough time moving the ball. It was a punt return by the Tigers’ Rowland that broke through the stalemate first. A three-play scoring drive for TSU followed as Rosendahl capped off the first quarter with an eight-yard touchdown run—the first of his career.
Early in the fourth, a 44-yard kick from Zita made it a two-score game, but Valley would prove resilient as Dejerric Bryant and the crew engineered an 11 play, 75-yard score with the quarterback scooting into the end zone on a four-yard scramble. A crucial defensive stop would follow, only conceding a Tiger field goal—making it 26-20, which gave the Delta Devils a chance to win.
Valley stood at the Tigers’ 24 with just over a minute to play, but it was the Tiger defense that saved the day with two stops. The drive stalled with an incomplete pass on fourth and seven and a turnover on downs that sealed the contest.
Bryant went 27 of 52 for 205 yards passing and a touchdown for the Delta Devils. Sedevyn Gray led all receivers with nine catches for 62 yards.
Tracy Thompkins led the way with 12 tackles. Jamenta Shaw added eight tackles and a forced fumble. Jonathan Jones had a solid all-around performance with five tackles and three broken up passes, including one that disrupted a touchdown catch.
Rowland (offensive MVP), finished the game with 11 catches for 173 yards for the Tigers. The local product also added 61 yards via punt returns and carries on the ground. In all, he recorded 235 all-purpose yards. Rosendahl wrapped up his night with 330 yards passing and a touchdown, going 25 for 42.
Sophomore Jahsun Bryant (defensive MVP), had nine total tackles. All-American kicker Antonio Zita made four of five field goals and two extra points for a total of 14 points on the night. His third field goal marked a career-long of 44 yards.
The Big Blue are back at it this weekend, as they travel right up the road to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. They face state rival MTSU. Kickoff is set for September 7, at 6 pm.