Nashville, Tenn. - A game of inches came down to just that as a successful goal line stand in the final minute secured a, 17-14, Tennessee State victory over Florida A&M at the 14th annual John A. Merritt Classic.
TSU (1-0) got off to a quick start as they opened the season on a seven-play, 58-yard drive that culminated on a 22-yard pass from Michael German to wide receiver Devin Wilson. German and Wilson connected earlier in the drive on a 44-yard completion, which was more yards than FAMU (0-1) gained in the entire first quarter.
The Tigers forced FAMU to punt on their first possession and followed that up with a long, 14-play drive that ended with a German fumble at the FAMU 32-yard line that was recovered by the Rattlers.
The Tigers started the second half just like they started the first, with a scoring drive. This time, Jamin Godfrey connected on a 38-yard field goal to give TSU a 10-0 edge.
Trabis Ward would cap off a nine play, 80-yard drive with a six yard touchdown run to extend the Tiger lead to 17.
FAMU would start their rally at the end of the third quarter with a 54-yard kickoff return by James Owens to the TSU 26-yard line. The Rattlers would need only three plays to find the end zone as quarterback Tyler Bass threw a 13-yard touchdown to Travis Harvey.
Early in the 4th quarter, FAMU would make it a one score game as QB Damien Fleming threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Michael Etheridge.
The Rattlers' final possession of the game started 88-yards away from the end zone and ended less than a yard shy of taking the lead.
TSU stopped FAMU twice in the final minute from the one-yard line on third and goal and fourth and goal as Fleming failed to reach the end zone on back-to-back sneaks.
German was named Offensive MVP as he went 22-of-32 for 263 yards and one touchdown along with one interception.
Defensive MVP honors went to TSU sophomore linebacker Nick Thrasher who finished with a game-high 10 tackles, nine solo, as well as two tackles for a loss. FAMU LB Brandon Hepburn shared the award as he tallied eight tackles, seven solo, along with one-and-a-half sacks and three-and-a-half tackles for loss.
Tennessee State goes on the road next week for the first time this season as they travel to Memphis to take on Jackson State (0-1) in the 23rd Southern Heritage Classic at 6:00 p.m.
Notes: TSU wins back-to-back games vs. Florida A&M for the first time since 1986-87 ... The Tigers set a school record with 20 penalties for 178 yards. The old record was set in 2002, also against Florida A&M ... TSU now holds a 26-25 series advantage all-time vs. FAMU ... Tonight's win was TSU's third straight John A. Merritt Classic win ... The 31 combined points ties the 2009 Merritt Classic as the lowest scoring Classic in history. In 2009, Alabama A&M defeated TSU 24-7.
Tennessee State Head Coach Rod Reed Post Game Press Conference, CLICK HERE. Tennessee State LB Nick Thrasher Post Game Press Conference, CLICK HERE. Tennessee State QB Michael German Post Game Press Conference, CLICK HERE.