NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Saturday, the Tennessee State football team hopes to send off its 17 seniors with a victory over Murray State in their last home game as a Tiger.
A victory over the Racers would also push TSU’s win total to nine, for the first time since the school’s OVC Championship team in 1999.
In order to reach that historical plateau, the Tigers will need to rely on one of the nation’s top-five defenses. TSU officially ranks No. 4 in the Football Championship Subdivision, only surrendering 279.6 yards per contest.
The unit’s performance last Saturday certainly helped lower the average, as Big Blue held Austin Peay to just 92 total yards in a, 31-6, TSU victory.
Tennessee State’s defense prides itself on not giving up big plays (4.2 yards per play) and making stops behind the line of scrimmage (93 tackles for loss).
No one has been better in the Ohio Valley Conference at wrapping up ball carriers behind the scrimmage than TSU’s Anthony Bass who is tops in the league with 13. The junior also ranks in the top ten nationally in quarterback sacks with nine.
TSU’s second line of defense has helped do its part, especially middle linebacker Nick Thrasher. Thrasher, in addition to being first in the OVC in solo stops with 52, is fourth on the team with nine tackles for loss.
The TSU front seven is surely stout, but its secondary may be the team’s biggest strength as the squad has recorded 16 interceptions and broken up 38 passes. Daniel Fitzpatrick is tops in the FCS with 6 picks and only eight players have knocked down more throws than he has.
On Offense, senior running back Tim Broughton’s 73 yards last Saturday now give him 1,029 yards on the season which is the most in the conference and 20th in the FCS. His 207 carries trail only UT Martin’s DJ McNeal’s 209 for the OVC lead.
Freshman quarterback Ronald Butler has also done well taking care of the ball and his 2.75 touchdowns per interception rank him second in the league among starting quarterbacks.
Butler and Broughton must control the ball on Saturday to keep Murray State’s 31.4 points per game scoring offense off of the field for as long as possible.
Quarterback Maikhail Miller has led the Racer attack so far this season, averaging 239.4 yards of total offense per contest and tallying 19 touchdowns.
On defense, Brandon Wicks is MSU’s leading tackler with 78 and the combo of Darrell Smith and Josh Manning each have picked off three passes this year.
Murray State has also had strong special teams this season, ranking first in the OVC in kickoff returns (22.6 yards per return) and kickoff coverage (41.3 yard net average). The Racers are only one of two teams in the conference to have a kick and punt return for a touchdown this year (Southeast Missouri being the other).
TSU is 11-13 all-time against Murray State and win on Saturday would the 2013 senior class’s first victory in the series. TSU has not beaten MSU since 2007.
The Tigers will battle the Racers at 2 p.m. at LP Field.