Tigers open season with JMC win over Alabama A&M
Sunday, September 5, 2010

Nashville, Tenn. - To mark the beginning of the Rod Reed era of Tiger Football, Tennessee State University opened the 2010 season with a 27-14 win over Alabama A&M in the 12th Annual John Merritt Classic.

More than 22, 000 fans showed up at LP Field with high expectations to witness a strong showing by the Big Blue.

TSU racked up 234 total yards averaging 11.5 yards per completion while posting seven sacks on the defensive side.

The Tigers struck early when Rayshawn Weatherspoon returned the game's opening kick-off 89 yards for a touchdown. The score was the longest return and the first touchdown from a kick-off in Classic history.

TSU went on to add 20 more points in the first half including two touchdown-passes from Jeremy Perry to Joseph Hills and one on the ground courtesy of Preston Brown.

Perry, the Classic's Offensive MVP, connected 11-of-21 for 127 yards. He found Hills in the second quarter at the 14:46 mark for a 15-yard strike and with 30 seconds left, the two linked up again for a 17-yard score. 

Hills finished with five receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns.

With 3:40 left in the second, Brown capped a 92-yard drive on 17 plays with a score from four yards out. Brown finished with 18 carries for 48 yards.

The Tigers held the Bulldogs scoreless in the first half while holding them to 68 yards on 28 plays before the break.

Defensively, Rico Council and Eugene Clifford led TSU. Council finished with nine tackles (4 solo, 5 assists) and 1.5 sacks with Clifford recording eight stops (5 solo, 3 assists) and an interception that led to a scoring drive for the Tigers. Clifford was named the Classic's Defensive MVP.

Donte'e Nicholls gathered two sacks to go with two tackles and Brandon Bather recorded his first career interception to put the brakes on the Bulldogs in scoring range.

AAMU finished with 276 total yards and got on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter when Deunte Mason found Rashan Johnson with 9:54 left on a 9-yard score. Mason tacked on another when he rushed in from 1-yard out with under three minutes left to play.

Mason finished throwing 19-of-39 with two interceptions for 187 yards. He led the Bulldogs in rushing with 18 carries for 44 yards. For the AAMU's defense, Larry Lumpkin led the way with nine tackles (7 solo, 2 assists) with four stops for a loss.

Next, The Tigers will take on Jackson State in Memphis, Tenn. at the Southern Heritage Classic on Sept. 11. Kick-off is slated for 6 p.m. at the Liberty Bowl.