Cape Girardeau, Mo. - A historic performance by Trabis Ward led the way as Tennessee State improved to 7-0 on the season with a 40-28 win at Southeast Missouri State Saturday night.
Tennessee State (7-0, 3-0 OVC) opened the game on a 15 play,
72-yard drive that was stopped inside the SEMO 10-yard line as running back
Darion Hall never got control of the handoff, giving the Redhawks possession.
After a SEMO (2-4, 1-2 OVC) three-and-out, the Tigers took advantage of great field position at the SEMO 49-yard line. Quarterback Michael German started the drive with a 34 yard completion to tight end Wesley Samuels down to the 15. TSU kept the drive alive with a 12-yard pass to Devin Wilson on a third-and-eight. The first points of the game came on another third down conversion as German found fullback Johntae Gleaves in the right corner of the end zone for the one-yard score to put TSU up 7-0 with 3:54 left in the first quarter. The Tigers converted 11 of their 15 third down chances, while holding SEMO to just five of 12.
German finished with 154 passing yards on 17-of-27 throwing for a touchdown and zero interceptions.
SEMO wasted no time tying the game as the Redhawks offense covered 75 yards on just six plays. Quarterback Scott Lathrop had three carries for 44 yards, including a rushing touchdown from 13 yards out.
The Tigers would take back the lead with another lengthy drive as Jamin Godfrey connected on a 25-yard field goal for the 10-7 edge. Trabis Ward got TSU into SEMO territory with a 43-yard rush.
Ward had the first of his four touchdowns with 8:06 left in the first half from 12 yards out to increase the lead to 17-7.
After a first half that saw 24 points, the offenses exploded in the second half as they each put up three touchdowns and combined for 44 points.
Much like TSU started the first half with a ball controlling drive, SEMO answered with one of their own to start the second half. The Redhawks cut the TSU lead to 17-14 as running back Levi Terrell scored from seven yards out. SEMO passed only twice on the 12 play, 82-yard march down the field.
The back-and-forth battle continued as the Tigers used a nice mixture of run and pass to set up Godfrey for his second field goal of the game, this one from 42 yards.
With the momentum in their favor despite trailing 20-14, SEMO drove deep into TSU territory and looked to extend the drive on a third-and-two at the TSU 23 in the final minute of the third quarter. Lathrop dropped back to pass, but was intercepted by Steven Godbolt. It was the sophomore’s fourth interception of the season as he returned it 62 yards to the SEMO 26.
TSU would hitch its wagon to Ward as he found the end zone
after five consecutive carries totaling 26 yards and a score.
With the Tigers holding their largest lead of the game at 26-14, SEMO would not throw in the towel as Terrell score again, this time on a 52-yard scamper to pull the Redhawks to within five with just under 11 minutes remaining.
Once again, Ward was the TSU workhorse as he carried the ball on nine of the next 11 plays resulting in a one-yard touchdown, his third of the contest to put the Tigers up 33-21 after a failed two-point conversion with 5:39 on the clock.
Just when it looked like the Tigers were in the clear, the resilient Redhawks continued to fight back. Lathrop had his only passing touchdown on the night to Paul McRoberts, who made an outstanding one handed grab in the back of the end zone, from eight yards out to make it a five point game with 2:22 remaining.
Even though they had all three timeouts left, SEMO elected to attempt an onside kick rather than kick it deep and try and stop Ward. TSU recovered at the SEMO 44.
With the Tigers needing a first down to assure themselves of a 7-0 record, they turned to none other than the junior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Ward converted a third-and-two with a five yard run and backed that up with a 30-yard rushing touchdown, his fourth of the night to give TSU a 40-28 victory on the road.
Ward finished with 43 carries for 267 yards and four touchdowns, all career-highs.
It’s the second most rushing yards in a game in TSU history and second most touchdowns in a game.
The Tigers continue OVC play on the road next Saturday at Jacksonville State. The game is scheduled for 11 a.m. and will be available on Fox College Sports.
GAME NOTES: The
only player to rush for more yards than Trabis Ward in a game in TSU history is
Charles Anthony who ran for 285 vs. Samford on October 23rd, 2004 …
Javarris Williams also had four touchdowns in a game for the Tigers. The only
player to have five is Charlie Thomas in 1971 … Ward’s previous career-high was
180 yards vs. UT Martin last season … Ward now has 908 yards on the season,
which is the eighth most all-time, just behind his 978 yard he put up last
season … TSU starts a season 7-0 for the 11th time in team history.
It’s their first 7-0 start since 1999 when they started 11-0 and made their
last playoff appearance … The Tigers are now 11-2 all-time in games where they
enter with a 6-0 record … Travis James passed David Davis (1968-1970: 1,305
yards) for 8th on the all-time TSU career receiving yards list with
his 13 yard catch on the first play of the game … TSU rushed for 306 yards, the
most since the 2011 season opener vs. Southern when they rushed for 342 … The
Tigers are now 3-0 in the OVC for the first time since 2008 … The 28 points is
the most that TSU has given up all season. The Tigers were the final FCS team
to give up more than 20 points in a game … It’s the first time since 1999 that
TSU wins at SEMO breaking a five game losing streak. It’s also the first time
since 2003 that a team has won consecutive games in the series … TSU now leads
the all-time series 11-10 … TSU is one of four remaining undefeated teams in
the FCS along with Lehigh, Cal Poly are Harvard.
To watch a post game interview with head coach Rod Reed, CLICK HERE.