NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Saturday, the Tennessee State football team will return to Hale Stadium for the first time since Nov. 9 of last season to take on Tennessee Tech.
The Tigers come into this week’s game at 2-1, having just defeated Jackson State, 35-7, in the Southern Heritage Classic. In that game, TSU scored all 35 points in the first half and coasted to the easy victory.
The Golden Eagles sit at 1-1 coming into Saturday and have had a week off to regroup after their 49-14 loss at Indiana State last time out. TTU fell behind 28-0 to the Sycamores before scoring on back-to-back special teams plays in the third quarter.
Three Keys to the Game
Go for the Ball
Through the first two games of the season, Tennessee Tech has fumbled seven times and lost four of them. In their last game alone, the Golden Eagles coughed up the football five times and Indiana State came away with it on three occasions. Tennessee State has already forced nine fumbles this year, but has only recovered three. The TSU defense will have to pick and choose when to go for the ball, but when there is a pile up, expect the Tigers to go for a strip.
Against Indiana State, TTU blocked a punt and ran it back for a touchdown and Ladarius Vanlier returned ISU's next punt attempt 72 yards for a touchdown. Vanlier finished the day with 200 all-purpose yards (his second career 200-plus yard all-purpose game), gaining 112 yards on kickoffs, 74 yards on punts, nine rushing yards and five receiving yards. Tennessee Tech also currently ranks fifth in the FCS in yards per kickoff return with 29.86. TSU meanwhile, has only allowed opponents to return punts for an average of 1.25 yards and kickoffs 19.63 yards so far this season. Big plays, or the lack of, from the special teams should again play a big role on Saturday.
Battle in the Trenches
On offense, TSU must continue to open up holes for backs like it did on Saturday when the Tigers rushed for 191 yards and three touchdowns. Senior offensive linemen Robert Myers, Anthony Morris and Derek Sibley should have a big day against TTU’s 47th ranked defense. On the other side of the ball, Tiger defenders need to continue to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks like they did last week when they totaled seven sacks. Reigning OVC Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Bass has been a force this season, totaling five sacks. Gabe Terry’s and Samquan Evans’s play have also been a bright spot as both have two sacks apiece.
TSU is 16-10 all-time against TTU and is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. This will be the first OVC contest for both teams and a chance to get to 1-0 in conference play. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the Hole.