INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The No. 17 ranked Tennessee State football team won its first playoff game since 1986 with a, 31-0, victory at Butler on Saturday.
The TSU defense held the Bulldogs (9-4) to 257 yards of total offense, forced three turnovers and notched its first shutout since its, 31-0, victory over Southeast Missouri on Nov. 11, 2006.
Meanwhile, the TSU (10-3) offense gained 415 and quarterback Michael German completed 14-of-24 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
Tim Broughton was the go-to-back on the ground, rushing for 80 yards on nine carries for an 8.2 average.
After a slow start to the game for both teams, German got TSU on the scoreboard first, as he found receiver Ryan Mitchell open in the middle of the field for a 25-yard touchdown with 1:38 remaining in the opening quarter. The pitch and catch capped off a 17-play, 82 yard drive in which German was 6-of-9 for 64 yards.
With the score, German passed James Wade for 6th on the school’s all-time passing touchdown list. The redshirt junior now has 43 for his career.
After a Butler punt on the Bulldogs’ following possession, the Tiger offense put together another scoring drive that culminated in a 45-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey. A 19-yard pass to Wesley Samuels and a 15 yarder to fellow tight end A.C. Leonard allowed TSU to jump ahead, 10-0, with 9:10 to go before halftime.
Butler had to punt again on its next series, but German fumbled the ball on a third-and-nine at the TSU 22 and the Bulldogs recovered. Butler’s following three plays netted the squad minus-seven yards and BU’s Jon Treloar missed his first field goal of the year, preserving the Tigers’ 10-point cushion.
Big Blue took advantage of its opponent’s miscue and marched 79 yards down in the field in seven plays for a TSU touchdown, one minute before halftime. On the scoring play, the Bulldogs rushed six defenders and German took three steps and fired the ball out to Samuels for 17 yards to take a 17-point lead. A 45-yard run by Broughton earlier in the series allowed the Tigers to get within striking distance.
De’Ante Saunders picked off Butler quarterback Matt Lancaster as the first half expired and Tennessee State went into the locker room up, 17-0.
TSU outgained BU, 256 to 97 in the first half and held the Bulldogs to just five first downs.
The Tigers fumbled the opening kickoff of the second stanza, but recovered. They were not as lucky two plays later when Leonard coughed up the ball following a 25-yard reception. BU’s Jeremy Stephens picked it up, ran down the sideline and was finally brought down at the TSU 20.
Again, Butler was unable to capitalize on the TSU turnover, and turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert a fourth-and-one.
Later in the quarter, Daniel Fitzpatrick recorded his FCS-leading seventh interception of the year and raced 26 yards for his third touchdown of the season. The pick-six put TSU in control, 24-0, with 10:35 left in the third.
Fitzpatrick is now tied with Brent Alexander and Roger Robinson for the second-most interceptions for a single season in school history.
Butler went for a fake punt on its next possession, but it failed, giving TSU great field position at the BU-42. Ronald Butler came in at quarterback, and engineered a four-play drive that ended with a 21-yard pass to Mitchell for another TSU touchdown.
The extra point that followed made the score 31-0 with 5:07 left in the third and also gave Godfrey his seventh point of the game. The senior is now Tennessee State’s all-time leader in career points with 307, passing Alfred Reese who played from 1969-72.
Fitzpatrick picked off another pass on Butler’s next offensive series, but TSU was unable to score, as Telvin Hooks fumbled at the BU 12 yard-line right when the third period expired.
Butler had one final chance at points with a 31-yard field goal attempt with 4:14 left in the game, but the kick went wide left, preserving the Tigers’ shutout and extending TSU’s season.
With the win, TSU notches its 10th victory for only the 12th time in school history.
With the victory, Tennessee State will travel to Charleston, Ill. on Dec. 7 for a re-match with the No. 2 ranked Panthers of Eastern Illinois. Kickoff for that contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT.