DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., - Tennessee State went on the road and took down the #1 ranked HBCU in the country as they defeated Bethune-Cookman, 21-14, Saturday afternoon.
The TSU (4-0, 1-0) offense has gotten off to slow starts this season, but that wasn't this case this week as Michael German connected with tight end A.C. Leonard for an 80-yard completion on the second play of the game. Trabis Ward would score from four yards out on the next play to put the Tigers up 7-0 only one minute, 15 seconds into the game.
German finished the game completing nine of 17 passes for 157 yards and an interception.
TSU would force a B-CU third-and-out on their first possession, but couldn't capitalize as German fumbled and the Wildcats recovered.
B-CU would get great field possession at the TSU 33, but Sven Hurd missed a 32-yard field goal wide left.
On TSU's first full drive of the 2nd quarter, Ward would find the end zone again, this time from six yards out to give the Tigers a two touchdown edge. The Tigers converted a 4th and 4 on the B-CU 33-yard line to extend the drive when German completed a 24 yard catch-and-run to Travis James.
Ward had 27 rushes, one away from tying his career-high set in the season opener, for 154 yards and two scores. He now has seven touchdowns on the season and has scored at least once in every game this season.
A wild finish to the first half started when Antonio Harper blocked a 33-yard field goal attempt by B-CU. Daniel Fitzpatrick scooped and scored on the block, which pushed the TSU lead to 21-0 with 2:15 left in the half.
The Wildcats answered back with their best offensive drive of the first half as Preston Cleckley made a one-handed highlight catch to put B-CU on the board.
After a pair of Ward rushes, German threw a pass to Leonard behind the line of scrimmage. Leonard dropped the pass and it was returned for a B-CU touchdown by LeBrandon Richardson to cut the Tigers lead to 21-14 heading into the half.
All five touchdowns that were scored came in the first half. Neither team put together a second half drive that lasted more than seven plays or longer than 32 yards.
The closest that B-CU came to tying the game came midway through the third quarter when they failed to convert a fourth-and-three from the TSU 14 yard line instead of attempting a 32-yard field goal.
The last gasp for B-CU came in the final two minutes of the game as they fell short again on fourth down, this time with 18 yards to go on their own 33 yard line.
TSU sealed the deal with a 18 yard pass to Leonard on a third-and-nine to assure that the Wildcats wouldn't get the ball back with a change to tie in the final minute.
Leonard had three catches for a season high 101 yards.
Defensively, the Tigers were led by linebacker Nick Thrasher who tallied a career best 13 tackles. Defensive back Andrew Taylor recorded seven tackles, three-and-a-half tackles for loss and a sack, all coming in the first half. TSU also had four sacks and nine tackles for loss.
Tennessee State plays their final non-conference game of the year as they host Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-1) for homecoming at LP Field next Saturday at 5 p.m.
Watch a post game interview with TSU Head Coach Rod Reed, CLICK HERE.
NOTES: TSU starts a season 4-0 for the first time since 2008. The last time the Tigers started the season 5-0 was in 2001 when they started 6-0 ... The 80-yard pass is the longest for TSU since October 22, 2011 at Eastern Kentucky when Jeremy Perry connected with Calvin McNairl for a touchdown ... With his run late in the first quarter, Trabis Ward moved into 8th place on the all-time TSU rushing yards list surpassing Nathaniel Simpson ... The TSU win snapped an eight-game winning streak by Bethune-Cookman against FCS opponents dating back to October of last season. It's also the first home lost for the Wildcats since September 10, 2011 ... The nine tackles for loss is the most in a game for TSU since September 25, 2010 vs. Florida A&M when they had 13 ... The 154 yards from Trabis Ward is the second most in a single game in his career ... Attendance was 9,461.