Memphis, Tenn. - In front of a crowd of 43,306, Tennessee State University held off a Jackson State drive in the final seconds to preserve a 14-7 victory at the 20th Annual Southern Heritage Classic (SHC) .
The win gives TSU their seventh consecutive victory against J-State and an 11-9 overall record in the SHC.
TSU's defense held JSU to 71 rushing yards while collecting four sacks, 10 pass break-ups and two interceptions. John Jones Jr. led all defenders with nine tackles (7 solo, 2 assists) including two for losses with Eugene Clifford contributing six tackles (5 solo, 2 assists) and two pass-break ups. Rodney Fritz, Joseph Wylie, Kellen Woodard and Deonte Kilgore each posted their first sacks of the season.
Both teams got off to a slow start in the first half totaling 12 punts. The Tigers were first to put points on the board when Jones Jr., tackled running back Luther Edwards, in the end zone for a safety early in the first quarter.
With TSU up 2-0, Anthony Levine intercepted Michael Mosley's pass returning it 51 yards to the JSU five-yard line. The play set up a Calvin McNairl six yard touchdown run with 1:53 remaining in the half. TSU's point after failed, leaving the score at the half 8-0.
Coming off of an injury, McNairl was named the SHC MVP with 14 carries for 101 yards (7.2 avg) with a 54-yard scamper to set up a TSU score in the fourth quarter. He also completed 4 of 11 passes for 43 yards.
The Tigers finished with 260 yards of offense including 217 rushing yards. Donte' Thomas had 13 carries for 67 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Preston Brown managed 17 carries for 65 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Brown's score increased TSU's lead to 14-0, despite their second failed point after attempt.
On the ensuing JSU drive, Dedric McDonald completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Tillman to narrow the score to 14-7. McDonald completed 11 of 24 for 148 total yards. Tillman led all receivers with six receptions for 76-yards. On defense, Marcus Jamison and Terrance Oniuke led JSU with eight tackles a piece, Malcolm Palmer and Neal Pogue accounted for two sacks and Ryan Rich finished with six tackles and an interception.
On the following TSU drive, the JSU defense forced the Tigers to punt after three plays. The stand gave JSU a chance to tie or win the game with 2:02 remaining.
A crucial TSU pass interference penalty put JSU on the three-yard line in the final seconds. During the last drive, three McDonald pass attempts in the end zone fell incomplete with Justin Bather's interception sealing a TSU win.
Next, the Tigers will travel to Baton Rouge, La. next week (9/19) to face the Southern University Jaguars at A.W. Mumford Stadium. Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
(l-r) TSU President Dr. Melvin N. Johnson, Calvin McNairl, and SHC representative at mid-field for MVP presentation.