Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State University Tigers will hit the road for the fourth time in five weeks for a key Ohio Valley Conference match-up with FCS No.16 ranked Eastern Kentucky.
Game time is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. at Roy Kidd Stadium on Saturday (10/10) in Richmond, Ky.
In the series contest, Eastern Kentucky holds the advantage 19-3. However, TSU snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Colonels last season with a 34-20 win at LP Field (9/20/08).
The Tigers (2-3, 1-0) are coming off a 23-17 OVC home victory over Southeast Missouri State, snapping a two-game skid. TSU racked up a season-high 354 yards of total offense while never trailing the Redhawks. Quarterback Calvin McNairl had a career day, completing 10-of-15 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. He also led TSU in rushing with 20 carries for 122 yards and two more scores.
McNairl, who has played in the last four games after missing the season opener, leads TSU and the OVC in rushing, averaging 97.8 yards/game. He has tallied 391 rushing yards on 59 carries (6.6 yards/carry) and has scored four touchdowns. Offensively, with McNairl at the helm, the Tigers are averaging over 250 total yards/game and are ranked second in the OVC in rushing with 165 yards/game.
Despite battling injuries, the Tigers' offensive line has managed to keep the running lanes open while providing solid protection. Anchored by returning starters Dumaka Atkins, Duvall Young and Alex Davis, the line has only surrendered four sacks on the season for a number one ranking in the OVC.
After a rough start in the early part of the season, transfer wide receiver Joseph Hills hauled in a season and game high, seven receptions in the Tigers' win over SEMO. Hills leads the TSU receiving corp with 16 catches for 191 yards, averaging 11.9 yards per reception with two touchdowns. Travis James follows with 11 receptions for an 8.3 reception/average.
Defensively, TSU ranks seventh in total defense in the conference, but has been successful in slowing down the run, holding teams to 3.1 yards per carry. The Tigers rank third in the OVC when going up against the run and are led by safety Eugene Clifford, linebacker John Jones, Jr., and defensive end Kellen Woodard.
Clifford leads the defense with 32 tackles on the season. Jones, who missed last week's game, follows closely with 31 tackles, good enough for sixth in the OVC. Woodard has collected 26 tackles thus far and leads TSU with three sacks. With a combined 10 tackles for losses, both Jones and Woodard are listed among the OVC best in that category.
Having managed 11 sacks on the year, the Tigers are currently third in the league. Nine sacks come courtesy of their front four with defensive linemen Rodney Fritz and Malcolm Crawford registering two sacks a piece.
The Colonels (3-1, 3-0) have a commanding lead in the OVC team standings having won all of their conference match-ups. EKU has won three straight coming off their bye week after losing their season opener to Indiana, 19-13. The Colonels defeated conference opponents Tennessee Tech (17-7), Murray State (23-13) and picked up another win last week against No. 23 Eastern Illinois (26-21).
EKU is led by preseason picks, running back C.J. Walker, offensive tackle Derek Hardman, and defensive lineman Chris Hall. The Colonels have won 22 of their last 23 conference games dating back to 2006. Their lone loss in that span comes from TSU in 2008.
The Colonels rank third in the nation and are first in the OVC in rush defense at 52.2 yards per game. EKU has held each of its first four opponents to less than 100 yards rushing while leading the OVC in sacks with 14. The Colonels are second in the league in total defense and are led by front runners, Jordan Dalrymple, Andrew Soucy and Emory Attig. Dalrymple leads EKU with 28 tackles, averaging seven per game. Soucy is third in the OVC in tackles for losses with six and Attig's team leading, three sacks, have him tied for fourth in the conference.
The Colonels also lead the league with eight interceptions this season. Two interceptions have been returned for touchdowns including Jeremy Caldwell's fourth quarter pick last week at Eastern Illinois. Caldwell was named OVC Co-Defensive Player of the Week receiving his second OVC honor this season. He also leads the conference in interceptions with four.
Eastern Kentucky's offense converted 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) third-down attempts at EIU, including six that were at least 10 yards long. Redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Pryor was named OVC Newcomer of the Week on Oct. 4 after completing 19-of-30 passes (63.3 percent) for 293 yards and two touchdowns at Eastern Illinois.
The TSU Tigers will continue OVC play when they host Murray State at LP Field on Oct. 17th for the Biker's Classic. Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.