NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Saturday, the Tennessee State football team will play in its first postseason game since 1999 when the squad travels to Butler for the opening round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
The Tigers were off for the first time all season last weekend, giving them a chance to get some of their banged up players healthy.
Redshirt junior quarterback Michael German is one who benefited from the extra rest, and he is cleared to participate against the Bulldogs.
German, who has only played in five contests this year, has completed 45-of-78 passes for 725 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Pompano Beach, Fla. native has also not thrown an interception all year.
Freshman Ronald Butler has filled in admirably for German this season, completing 130-of-223 passes for 1343 yards, 12 scores and only four picks.
However, the offense has not been the same when German is forced to miss. TSU is 4-3 in such contests and only scored an average of 18.4 points per game. With German, TSU is 5-0 and averaging 42.2 points.
The Tigers could use the points, but the Big Blue defense has been dominant this season, only allowing 278.9 yards per contest. TSU also sits inside the top ten in third down conversion defense (1st), tackles for loss (5th), passing efficiency defense (6th), scoring defense (6th) and rushing defense (9th).
The stellar play of the unit starts upfront where the Tigers boast a defensive line that consists of four players who have recorded at least four sacks on the year. Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Bass is first on the squad with 10, which ranks him tied for seventh nationally. Senior, and fellow First Team All-OVC’er, Antonio Harper plays at the defensive end spot, and is fourth on the team with 44 stops and tied for second with 11 tackles for loss.
The Tigers will need to continue to play well on defense on Saturday when they take on Butler (9-3) who won the Pioneer Football League for the second consecutive time.
Butler will be the first PFL team to participate in the playoffs, benefiting from a defense that currently ranks seventh nationally with 30 takeaways in 2013 and the squad has a +0.9 per game turnover margin, which is 10th in the FCS. Senior Sean Grady leads the squad with four interceptions on the year.
Offensively, senior quarterback Matt Lancaster is averaging 239.9 passing yards per game and has 19 passing and 12 rushing touchdowns this season. Senior tailback Trae Hester was the only PFL rusher to average over 100 yards per game this season, finishing the season with 1,311 yards and 13 scores.
TSU has never faced Butler, but is 1-3 all-time in the Playoffs (and an additional 1-2 in years vacated). This will also be the second time that Tennessee State has played 13 games in one season.
The winner of Saturday’s game will meet Eastern Illinois on Dec. 7.
TSU will kickoff at Butler at 12 p.m. CT, and fans can watch the game on ESPN3.