TIGERS LOSE TOUGH OPENER IN JOHN MERRITT CLASSIC
NASHVILLE --- Turnovers help spoil the head coaching debut of first-year Tennessee State head coach James Webster as Alabama A&M left the Coliseum with a 27-14 season opening victory over the Tigers in the Seventh Annual John Merritt Classic Saturday night. The Tigers committed two turnovers that led to 10 points and then had an interception returned for 100 yards as time expired after the Tigers had one last chance to tie the game. "Our effort was there, but we made costly mistakes and you have to give Alabama A&M a lot of credit," said the new TSU coach. "Our young men have worked very hard, and it is a tough loss. However, we have a lot of football to look forward to this season." The Tigers got off to a good start, marching 49 yards in seven plays late in the first quarter. Bryson Rosser tossed a 13-yard scoring pass to Fred Burnette. Eric Benson's PAT gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 42 seconds remaining in the opening period. A&M's first points came after Fred Solomon recovered a Maurice Young fumble at the TSU 30-yard line. The Tigers limited A&M to just four yards and the Bulldogs settled for a 43-yard field goal from Jose' Osorio. A&M pulled to within a point, marching 49 yards in 13 plays. The Bulldogs drive stalled at the 20-yard line and Osorio connected this time from 37 yards. TSU surrendered the line just more than a minute later as Rosser had a pass intercepted by Walter Herron who returned the ball to TSU's 4-yard line. The Tiger defense held the Bulldogs with a yard for the first two plays, but Kelcy Luke threw four yards to John Smith on a third down play to give the Bulldogs the lead with seven minutes left in the third period. The Tigers responded by taking the ball downfield to re-gain the lead. Redshirt freshman running back Javarris Williams concluded a 65-yard drive with an 8-yard run. Benson's kick gave TSU the lead with 2:53 left in the third period. A&M went 60 yards on its first possession of the fourth period. Backup quarterback Harold Dorman kept from two yards out. Dorman threw to Tedric Milton after a wild scramble for the two-point conversion to make the score 21-14 with 8:31 left. TSU put together a 14-play 64-yard drive that last almost seven minutes that went to the 9-yard line. However, the Tigers had a fumble loss to eight yards in two plays and had a fourth-and-goal situation from the 16-yard line. Rosser's pass to Richard Gale fell incomplete giving A&M the football with 1:50 left. The Tigers held A&M, forcing a punt that gave the Tigers the ball with 22 seconds left. TSU made a pair of first downs and had the ball at the 27-yard line when Rosser's final pass was intercepted by Antonio Nelson and returned 100 yards for the score as the final horn sounded. Rosser finished the game 15-23-2 with 154 yards and three quarterback sacks. Williams had 60 yards in 23 attempts in his first collegiate action. Burnette had five catches for 45 yards. TSU had 226 yards of total offense while A&M had 233. The Tigers came up with one interception, an interception by Dominique Rodgers. Rodgers had seven solo tackles.