NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Following its 31-0 blowout at Butler last week, the No. 17 Tennessee State football team will continue down its road in NCAA Division I Playoffs by traveling to No. 2 Eastern Illinois this Saturday for a rematch with the Panthers and a chance at revenge.
At TSU’s homecoming on Oct. 26, the Tigers (10-3) were outgained 567 to 338 in total yardage and committed 13 penalties for 110 yards en route to a, 34-16, loss to EIU.
Freshman quarterback Ronald Butler led the offense, completing 24-of-45 passes for 212 yards, two scores and zero interceptions. However, redshirt junior quarterback Michael German is expected to start in Butler’s place on Saturday.
TSU’s quarterbacks rank second in the nation in fewest interceptions thrown with four, trailing only the Citadel.
While the offense is doing a good job of not throwing the ball to the other team, the TSU defense has been one of the best at taking it away.
Big Blue has recorded 20 interceptions in 13 games, ranking them fourth in the FCS in picks and junior safety Daniel Fitzpatrick has helped his team’s cause with a team-high eight.
Fitzpatrick is tied with University of Virginia junior safety Anthony Harris for the most picks in D-I. He is also the only player in the FCS to return three picks for touchdowns.
The entire Tiger defense will have its hands full on Saturday against Eastern Illinois (11-1) and its No. 1 ranked offense (599.1 yards per contest).
On Oct. 26, EIU quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finished with 410 yards on 24-of-41 passing and four touchdowns against the Tigers.
This year, Garoppolo is leading the nation in passing yard per game (374.1), touchdowns (48) and points responsible for (308).
The Panthers also have a strong running game as Shepard Little leads the OVC in rushing with 1,306 yards and Taylor Duncan has added 809. The duo has combined for 22 scores on the ground.
Tennessee State will take on Eastern Illinois for the 17th time, with EIU holding a 9-7 edge in the series.
Saturday will mark the first time in school history that Big Blue will play 14 games in a season. Prior to this season, the 1986 squad was the only team at TSU to play 13 contests in a season.
Tigers will meet Panthers on Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner of the game will move on to the Elite Eight to face either Fordham or Towson on Dec. 14.