Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State University Tigers will look to jump back into the win column, after dropping three straight, when they travel I-24 west to Clarksville, Tenn. to face Austin Peay State in conference play. The Ohio Valley Conference match-up is slated for Saturday, Nov. 14, at Governors Stadium on the campus of APSU.
The Tigers' (3-6, 2-3) three-game skid comes as a result from conference losses to Murray State (9-6, 10/17), Tennessee Tech (20-13, 10/31), and Tennessee Martin (28-7, 11/7).
In last week's game versus UT Martin, TSU got off to a slow start in their last home portion of the schedule. Trailing 14-0 entering the fourth quarter, UTM scored twice in the final 5:12 to put the game out of reach. TSU avoided the Homecoming/Senior Day shut out when senior wideout Julian Sample, in a career performance, grabbed four passes for 100 yards and a 73-yard touchdown reception. On the defensive side of the ball, John Jones, Jr. had 12 tackles (four solo), 1.5 tackles-for-loss and a pass break-up. In addition, linebacker Rico Council had 11 tackles.
Jones and Council currently lead the Tigers in defensive tackles combining for 110. Jones, Jr. has 56 tackles (33 solo) including eight tackles for a loss. Council follows with 54 tackles on the year (26 solo) with seven behind the line of scrimmage, including one sack. Defensive backs Eugene Clifford and Anthony Levine hold a team best two interceptions apiece with defensive lineman Kellen Woodard and Rodney Fritz both managing five sacks this season.
For total defense, TSU is ranked third in the OVC and first in red zone defense, giving up 22 scores on 33 attempts. The Tigers have slipped to second place in the league when defending the rush, allowing 113.6 yards per game. TSU held the top spot in the category for the majority of the season before giving up over 100 yards to a single running back for the first time this season in last week's loss.
Against APSU, TSU holds the series lead, 8-3, defeating the Governors in their last three meetings. Since APSU re-joined the OVC in 2007, the Tigers pulled off victories by a field goal or less. In 2007, TSU won in a thriller after, now Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, blocked an extra-point to give TSU a 33-32 win in overtime.
Last season, APSU stormed back from a 27-12 halftime deficit to tie the game at 34 on an interception return in the fourth quarter. Late in the game, the Tigers drove 54 yards on 10 plays and kicker Eric Benson connected on a 29-yard field with two seconds remaining to pull out the win.
Offensively this season, TSU is averaging 13.2 points and 267 yards per game and has posted 9.6 points of scoring during the three-game drop. The offensive line spearheaded by Dumaka Atkins, Duvall Young and Alex Davis continues to hold a bright spot posting the best numbers in sacks allowed, giving up an OVC best, nine on the season.
Re-entering the starting line-up in the Tigers' last two outings, after sustaining an injury in the season opener, quarterback Dominic Grooms has completed 16-of-42 passes for 199 yards, throwing four interceptions. In four games played on the year, Grooms is 29-of-66 for 279 yards while posting a pass efficiency of 67.3.
Calvin McNairl still leads TSU in rushing, passing, scoring and total offense. McNairl is averaging 5.5 yards/carry, throwing for 52-of-108, four touchdowns, 596 yards (75 yards/game) and seven interceptions. He is averaging 140.6 yards of total offense and has accounted for nine scores, including rushing for five touchdowns this year.
Wide receivers, Joseph Hills, Travis James and Marquez Wilkens, have posted a reception in every game this season. Hills leads the Tigers with 31 receptions for 407 yards with three touchdowns, averaging 13.1 yards per catch. James follows with 19 grabs with Wilkens hauling in 14.
Austin Peay (3-6, 2-4) is nursing two-consecutive league losses after upsetting, then ranked 20 in the FCS, Eastern Kentucky, 24-20, in conference play. APSU dropped a 28-10 decision to Jacksonville State (10/31) before falling 27-17 to rival Murray State (11/7). The Govs led 10-0 with 8:10 to play in the second quarter before the Racers rolled off 27 straight points.
The Governors are led by the OVC's top running back, Ryan White and OVC preseason picks, return specialist Terrence Holt, defensive back Kevis Buckley and linebacker Daniel Becker.
APSU is ranked third in the conference in rushing with 168.8 yards a game, averaging 290 of total offense. The Govs' are scoring 20 points per contest and are powered by Ryan White's league leading, 101 rushing yards per game average. White, named OVC Player of the Week (10/11), is the only running back averaging over 100 yards a game in the OVC, tallying 4.8 yards/carry and two touchdowns.
Along with White, Holt received OVC weekly honors on offense (10/25) and special teams (11/09). He rushed for 176 yards on 16 carries in the Govs' upset over EKU before recording a school-record 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the loss at Murray State. Holt, the OVC and nation's leader in all-purpose yards (204.33/game), finished the game with 241 total yards. Holt leads the conference in scoring with eight points/game.
For the defense, APSU is allowing 27.7 points per game. Becker sits fourth in the conference in tackles with a team leading 80 (8.9 tackles/game) along with 8.5 for loss and two sacks. Antonio Faulkner is the only APSU defender to receive an OVC weekly honor (10/25) after posting four tackles, including two for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry against EKU. On the season, Faulkner has 22 tackles (12 solo) and two sacks. Buckley follows with 14 tackles (11 solo), seven pass break-ups and a fumble recovery.
The Tigers will end the 2009 campaign when they travel to Charleston, Ill. to face Eastern Illinois. The OVC finale for TSU will be televised on ESPNU and is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19, with a 5:30 p.m. start.