Cookeville, Tenn. - With three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and down 20-13, the Tennessee State University Tigers drove 55 yards for the potential winning drive.
With a chance to tie the game with under a minute to play, the Tigers committed back-to-back penalties and three incomplete passes in the end zone, losing to Tennessee Tech, 20-13, in conference play at Tucker Stadium.
With the loss, TSU hands TTU the Sgt. York Trophy after harboring the award in its first two years of existence. The York Trophy, the second traveling award between more than two teams, goes to the winner of the quadrangular season series between the four OVC schools in Tennessee - Austin Peay, UT Martin, TSU and TTU. TTU defeated Austin Peay State (31-23) and UT Martin (35-28) earlier this season to claim the title.
TTU's win snaps a TSU six-game win streak against the Golden Eagles. The last time the Golden Eagles defeated TSU was in 2002 at LP Field, 20-14.
The Tigers (3-5, 2-2) suffer their second straight loss, finishing with 280 yards of offense and 19 first downs. The offense struggled to find their rhythm, committing 12 penalties for 65 yards. Joseph Hills' six catches for 80 yards was a bright spot in the offensive numbers.
TSU's defense held TTU to 265 yards of total offense with 77 yards on the ground and only nine first downs. Defensive lineman Rodney Fritz finished with two sacks and three tackles. Anthony Levine collected six tackles and Eugene Clifford pulled in one-of-two TSU interceptions.
With a rough start in his return to the starting line up, quarterback Dominic Grooms completed 7-of-22 passes for 75 yards with two interceptions.
The Tigers trailed early after two turnovers led to 13 points for the Golden Eagles. Grooms' fumble from a Caleb Mitchell sack led to a Dontey Gay 3-yard touchdown with a failed point after attempt. On the Tigers' ensuing drive, Mitchell picked off a Grooms' pass to set up a Lee Sweeney 28-yard touchdown toss to Colin Allen.
TTU's Mitchell and Dustin Dillehay led all defenders with 13 tackles apiece. Richmond Tooley and Taron Ryce also tallied picks for the Golden Eagles.
The Tigers got on the board with 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter when linebacker Sidney Tarver returned an 89-yard interception for a touchdown. The botched point after attempt left a 13-6 score in favor of TTU.
After two scoreless quarters, the Tigers tied the ball game on a 12-yard touchdown run by Calvin McNairl, capping an eight play, 91-yard drive with 7:56 left in the game.
For the game, McNairl threw 4-of-10 for 34 yards and one interception while rushing on 11 carries for 46 yards (4.2 yards/carry). Preston Brown rushed for 54 yards on 13 carries (4.2 yards/carry) but saw limited touches in the second half.
At the 4:07 mark, TTU scored their second touchdown on the first play of the drive when Sweeny tossed another 28-yard touchdown pass. He connected with Tim Benford to give the Golden Eagles a 20-13 lead to secure the win. Both of Sweeney's touchdown passes took only nine seconds. He finished with 12-of-23 passing with two interceptions. Benford led all receivers with five receptions for 122 yards.
The Tigers will jump back into action on Nov.7 when they host UT Martin for Homecoming 2009. The OVC game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. kick-off at LP Field.