McNairl Named Game MVP in Loss
Atlanta, Ga. - The Tennessee State Tigers struggled in the second half, dropping their second consecutive game of the season with a 31-12 loss to No. 25 (FCS) Florida A&M in the Bank of America Atlanta Football Classic.
With the defeat, the Tigers' have dropped eight straight to FAMU inside the Georgia Dome.
Despite failing on two extra-point attempts and a field goal, the Tigers (1-3) led 12-10 moving the ball effectively in the first-half gaining 201 yards in offense. In the second, the Tigers could not find their rhythm producing only 73 yards of offense to finish with 274 yards.
TSU trailed 3-0 after a FAMU field goal in the first before a 77-yard run by Calvin McNairl set up a Preston Brown score in the second quarter. Brown's 9-yard touchdown run capped a five-play, 93-yard drive to give the Tigers a 6-3 lead.
McNairl rushed for a touchdown and a game high, 82 yards on 14 carries, averaging 5.9 yards from scrimmage. McNairl was named the game's co-MVP while completing 2-of-5 passes for 18 yards. Brown tacked on his second score of the season finishing with 75 yards on 12 carries for a 6.2 average.
FAMU (4-0) retaliated on the ensuing drive when Philip Sylvester's 8-yard touchdown run gave the Rattlers the lead, 10-6. Two possesions later, TSU went up 12-10 from McNairl's 1-yard score to finish a 9-play, 84-yard drive with less than a minute left before the half.
Right before the break, the Tigers could not take advantage of an opportunity to extend the lead after Marcus Snow intercepted a pass during the Rattlers' next drive. Snow returned his first interception of the season 43 yards to the FAMU 23-yard line to give TSU another chance to score. John Lopez's field goal was wide right and the Tigers settled for a two-point lead at the break.
The Tigers' defense held the Rattlers' high powered rushing attack to 87 yards and was led by John Jones, Jr. Jones finished with a team-high eight tackles (4 solo, 4 assists). Sidney Tarver followed with his best performance of the early season with seven tackles (6 solo, 1 assist). Kellen Woodard tallied TSU's only sack of the evening giving him four on the year.
In the second, TSU watched their slim lead fade away when FAMU scored 21 unanswered points. The Rattlers, unable to gain anything on the ground, capitalized on their air attack behind co-MVP, quarterback Curtis Pulley. FAMU finished with 402 yards of total offense going 3-for-3 in the red-zone. Pulley finished with a game high 24-of-34 passing for 312 yards, throwing two touchdowns and his first interception of the season.
The Rattlers took a 17-12 lead scoring on a 2-yard pass from Pulley to Max Purcell in the third quarter. FAMU extended their advantage when Pulley found Isaac West during the start of the fourth for a 26-yard score. With 6:09 left in the game, Mykel Benson scored on a 1-yard run to seal the FAMU win.
West finished with a game-high six receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown. Greg Harvey finished with 11 tackles to lead the Rattlers who gathered 12 tackles for losses.
The Tigers will return to action when they open their Ohio Valley Conference schedule against Southeast Missouri State at LP Field. The match-up is scheduled for October 3rd with a 6 p.m. kick-off.