Nashville, Tenn. - Tennessee State hosts Austin Peay for the first conference matchup in the OVC of the 2012 season and the first game held at Hale Stadium since 1998. TSU improved to 2-0 on the young season last week with an impressive 38-12 victory vs. Jackson State at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis at the 23rd annual Southern Heritage Classic.
The Tigers were led by junior running back Trabis Ward, who was named adidas® Ohio Valley Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Week.
Ward carried the ball 22 times for 114 yards and a career-best three touchdowns
The junior became just the sixth TSU player to rush for three or more touchdowns in a game and the first since the 2008 season (Javarris Williams). All of Ward’s touchdowns came in the second quarter, the last coming on a 47-yard scamper to put the Tigers up, 21-6, heading into halftime.
For his efforts Ward was named Southern Heritage Classic MVP. Ward currently ranks 10th nationally in rushing (119.0 yards/game) and sixth nationally in scoring (12.0 points/game).
For Austin Peay, they dropped to 0-2 on the season with a 42-7 defeat against Virginia Tech.
The Governors forced two Hokie punts, forced a turnover and stopped Virginia Tech on a fourth-and-one deep in APSU territory, in the first half.
A late first-half score gave Virginia Tech a 21-0 lead going into halftime .The Hokies took advantage of a blocked punt in the second quarter to score their second TD. The Hokies benefitted from a Govs turnover midway through the third quarter to break open the game 28-0.
However, the Governors responded with their season’s most impressive drive, going 78 yards on six plays, the bulk coming on Wesley Kitts runs. He accounted for 49 yards, including a 32-yard run. Kitts got the Govs to the 10 and Terrence Oliver scored his career’s first TD, a 10-yard up-the-middle run as APSU cut the deficit to 28-7.
Kitts finished with a career-best 110 yards on 22 carries. In his first two career starts, both against Football Bowl Subdivision schools, Kitts has rushed for more than 100 yards.
But the most improved play came up front defensively. The Govs held Virginia Tech to 187 yards rushing, many coming late in the contest when APSU began to tire.
Defensively, safety Johnathan Shuler led the way with nine stops, including 1.5 for loss while linebacker Craig Salley, defensive end Earnest Smith and safety Steven Rich each had nine. Salley and Smith had sacks of Thomas.
Tennessee State holds an 8-6 advantage in the all-time series dating back to 1988. Since the series was renewed in 2007 after a 10-year break (when APSU was playing non-scholarship football), Austin Peay has won the last three meetings over the last three seasons, each game being decided by three points.
TSU last defeated the Govs in 2008, a 37-34 Tigers victory. In 2007, the Tigers won by the slimmest of margins, a 33-32 overtime win.
In last year’s meeting Tennessee State pulled ahead
34-20 with 7:32 to play in the third quarter before Austin Peay scored the
final 17 points of the game, including touchdown runs by Ryan White and Wesley
Kitts and a game-winning 35-yard field goal by Stephen Stansell with 11 seconds
to play. Trabis Ward led the Tigers with 101 yards rushing while TSU
quarterback Michael German passed for 304 yards and two touchdowns. Jake Ryan
led the APSU attack with 314 passing yards and two scores.
This is the first game in the sixth annual Sgt. York Trophy series, which is played between the four OVC schools from the state of Tennessee. Tennessee State is the defending Sgt. York Champion, winning the title for the third time a year ago (TSU also won in 2007 and 2008).
TSU and APSU last played against each other in Hale Stadium (also known as “The Hole”) in 1996, when TSU captured a 38-14 victory. Saturday’s game also features a pair of head coaches coaching at their alma maters.
-- TSU TIGERS --