CHARLESTON, Ill. – Frigid tempartures and a relentless Panther attack ended the Tennessee State football team’s season on Saturday with a 51-10 loss at Eastern Illinois in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Playoffs.
The Tigers could not overcome a 37-point halftime deficit and surrendered 553 yards, 313 of which came on the ground.
Eastern Illinois’s 51 points were the most by a TSU opponent since Murray State scored the same total on Nov. 9, 2002.
The Tigers mustered 287 yards of total offense and redshirt junior quarterback Michael German finished 25-of-38 for 242 yards with zero scores and zero interceptions.
EIU was led by senior quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who completed 17-of-26 passes for 240 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. Running back Shepard Little led the Panther rushing attack with 12 carries for 184 yards and two scores.
The Panthers received the ball to start the game and marched 81 yards down the field in 10 plays for a touchdown. Garoppolo was 5-of-5 for 68 yards, but it was running back Taylor Duncan who made into the end zone from three-yards out.
TSU was driving on its first possession, but German fumbled a snap at the EIU 44-yard line and the Panthers recovered. Eastern Illinois immediately went deep on the next play and Erik Lora caught a 49-yard pass. Four plays later, EIU kicked a 25-yard field goal and led, 10-0, with eight minutes left in the first period.
The Tennessee State offense sputtered on its next series, but EIU’s did not. Garoppolo found Lora on a crossing pattern and Lora did the rest for a 20-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt hit the upright, but EIU still led, 16-0, at the 4:41 mark in opening stanza.
EIU added a touchdown with 10 minutes to go before halftime, returned a blocked punt for another score with two minutes to play and ended the half with a 4-yard passing touchdown, making the score 37-0 at halftime.
TSU was outgained, 340 yards to 90 during the first 30 minutes and only averaged 1.1 yards per rush.
The Tigers fumbled four times in the first half, losing two, missed a field goal and had a punt blocked for the first time all season.
The Panthers scored a quick touchdown to start the third quarter before TSU finally got on the scoreboard with a seven-yard rushing touchdown by Tim Broughton on its second possession of the half.
Broughton’s run capped an 11-play, 63-yard drive in which German was 5-of-5 for 57 yards. The Big Blue touchdown made the score 44-7 with 7:28 to go in the third stanza.
Eastern Illinois was about to score another touchdown right before the end of the quarter, but the Tennessee State defense stopped the Panthers twice at the one-yard line to force a turnover on downs.
The stop proved to benefit the TSU offense, as German engineered a 74-yard drive that culminated in a 42-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey. Ryan Mitchell had two 20-yard receptions to key the scoring series.
Mitchell finished the day with six grabs for 76 yards.
The Panthers struck right back with an 80-yard touchdown run by Little on their very next play to make the score, 51-10, with 9:46 to play.
Little’s touchdown proved to be the final points of the game, and Tennessee State fell to 10-4 on the season.
Andrew Taylor led the TSU defense with a career-high 11 tackles and recorded the team’s only sack of the game. De’Ante Saunders also had an interception in the second quarter, but TSU gave the ball back via a fumble two plays later.
Eastern Illinois will travel to Towson for an Elite Eight contest on Dec. 14 while TSU will resume team activities this spring.