NASHVILLE- Tenn. - After playing four of its first six
games of the season at home, first place Tennessee State will take to the road
to play four of its final five games away from home. That stretch begins at
Southeast Missouri on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
Tennessee State climbed to 18th in the Sports Network poll and No. 20 in the FCS Coaches poll this week. Southeast Missouri has lost its last three games against nationally-ranked opponents. The team’s last win over a Top 25 team was on Sept. 18, 2010, a 24-21 victory at then No. 5 Southern Illinois. Its last win at home against a ranked team was a 27-20 overtime win over No. 19 Tennessee State on Oct. 25, 2008. In last year’s meeting TSU outgained SEMO 536 yards to 158 yards on its way to a 55-3 victory at LP Field. Trabis Ward had 135 yards and two touchdowns to lead TSU.
Off to its best start since 2001, Tennessee State scored two touchdowns in the final 8:49 on Saturday to upend No. 16 Eastern Kentucky 23-20. The win vaulted the Tigers from un-ranked to 18th in the Sports Network poll and up four spots in the FCS Coaches Top 25. Trabis Ward, who had 113 yards on the ground, scored on a 3-yard run with 8:49 to play.
Later in the fourth quarter sophomore linebacker Nick Thrasher, who was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week, had a key sack on third down, and a play later EKU failed to convert on fourth down deep in TSU territory. The Tigers then took the ball and went 68 yards in 13 plays with quarterback Michael German scoring from 1-yard out with eight seconds to go. German passed for 227 yards and a touchdown to go along with his game-winning rush.
Although the 20 points were the most allowed by TSU this season, the Tigers are one of just two teams at the FCS level (Bucknell is the other) to not allow more than 20 points in a game this year. TSU ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense (14.5 points/game) and 28th nationally in total defense (323.5 yards/game); TSU is the only OVC team to rank in the Top 60 nationally in total defense.
Southeast Missouri was idle last week, a week after losing at Jacksonville State to slip to 1-1 in OVC play. The team is 1-4 in games following a bye week under head coach Tony Samuel. In the JSU contest, the Redhawks pulled to within a point early in the fourth quarter, but failed to convert the PAT and then saw the Gamecocks score two touchdowns over the final 10:57 to win the contest.
Southeast failed to force a turnover in the game, the first time this season that has happened; the Redhawks currently rank sixth nationally in turnovers gained (16) and 10th in turnover margin (+1.40/game) on the season.
In the game senior Levi Terrell rushed for 146 yards, the third time this year he has reached the 100-yard rushing mark; Terrell enters this week ranked 13th nationally in rushing (118.0 yards/game). As a team the Redhawks rank first in the OVC and 15th nationally in rushing offense (218.4 yards/game).
Senior linebacker Blake Peiffer currently has 298 career tackles, which ranks seventh all-time in Southeast Missouri history; Peiffer is averaging 11.2 tackles/game, which ranks second in the OVC and ninth nationally in 2012. Defensive back Tylor Brock, who had 10 tackles in the loss at JSU, ranks fifth nationally interceptions (0.60/game).
The Tigers and Redhawks are deadlocked 10-10 in the all-time series and a different team has won the game each of the last eight years. Not since Southeast Missouri won in each 2003 and 2004 have one of these teams won back-to-back in the series. Overall the home team has won the game in each of the last 11 meetings dating back to 2000 (the 2000 and 2001 games were both at TSU while the 2002 and 2003 were each at SEMO due to a quirk in scheduling).