Tigers gear up for Atlanta Football Classic against rival Florida A&M
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State University Tigers will travel to Atlanta, Ga. to face rival, Florida A&M, in the Atlanta Football Classic. The match-up is scheduled for September 26th, 2:30 p.m. (CDT), inside the Georgia Dome. 

TSU Fans can tune in on the Big Blue Sports Network or watch on Versus (check local cable listings).

FAMU holds the series edge, 25-23, winning the last seven meetings, including a 28-21 win in 2008. The last time the Tigers defeated the Rattlers was in 2001 (27-7) and is 4-10 against FAMU in the Atlanta Football Classic.

The Tigers (1-2) are coming off loss last week to Southern University, 21-17, in Baton Rouge, La. TSU showed signs of moving the ball effectively gaining ground in third down situations. The Tigers finished with season highs, 17 points scored and 65 plays from the line of scrimmage.

After giving up six sacks on the season, the offensive line did not surrender a sack against the Jaguar pass-rush while averaging 4.5 yards per play.

Calvin McNairl accounted for 172 total yards completing 9 of 25 passes for 86 yards, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions. On the ground, he mirrored his passing yardage, rushing for 86 yards on 11 carries (7.8 yards per carry). The touchdown pass is McNairl's first of the season and Joseph Hills' first career score. Hills finished with four catches for 56 yards and leads the team with eight receptions for a 12.9 average.

McNairl is averaging 7.5 yards per carry with 158 yards of total offense per game fueling an offense that has out performed their opponents on the ground with fewer attempts, averaging 133 yards per game (473 total yards). In scoring range, TSU has been capable of putting points on the board going 5-of-6 (83%) in the red-zone while holding their opponents to 57 percent.

Eugene Clifford, Anthony Levine and John Jones, Jr. help lead a defense who has held teams to 7-of-14 touchdown attempts in the red-zone and a 17.3 points per game average. Jones leads the Tigers with 23 tackles on the season and Clifford's 21 tackles follow second. Levine has posted 13 tackles with one interception but has come up with big plays in key situations.

The Tigers' defensive line led by Kellen Woodard, Rodney Fritz and Malcolm Crawford have accounted for seven sacks on the year. Woodard and Fritz lead the team in the category with three apiece with Woodard collecting 17 tackles on the year.

Florida A&M (3-0) comes into the match-up having defeated MEAC opponent Howard University at home, 48-10. The Rattlers lead the MEAC in rushing and total offense, total defense, and pass efficiency. 

For the Rattlers, Leroy Vann has posted four punt returns for touchdowns and currently leads the FCS ranks with 28 yards per return. He was also recognized for the second straight week by the MEAC, Sports Network's FCS and the College Sporting News as the Special Teams Player of the Week. Vann was named to the 2009 MEAC preseason first team after receiving first team all conference honors after the 2008 season.  

On the offense, MEAC Preseason selections, quarterback Chris Pulley, wide receivers Kevin Elliot and Isaac West, running back Philip Sylvester and offensive linemen Anthony Collins, Robert Okeafor, and Steve Brazzle spearhead an attack that is averaging a conference best 392 yards and 34.3 points per game. Pulley, Okeafor and Elliot were tagged with 2008 first team all-conference honors with Sylvester and Collins named to the second team.

Pulley heads the offense having thrown 531 yards on 40-of-62 passing with five touchdowns while averaging 177 yards per game.

Defensively, FAMU is holding teams with a conference best, 10.3 points per game. Linebacker Bryan Parker leads the Rattlers with 28 tackles on the season including 3.5 for losses. Parker was named to the MEAC preseason first team along with defensive back Curtis Holcomb. Holcomb with four tackles this year was also named to the MEAC second team in 2008.

The Tigers will open their OVC schedule next week when they host Southeast Missouri State. The conference game is scheduled for Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at LP Field.