NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State football scored 20 points in the first half and hung on to beat Florida A&M, 27-7, in front of 29, 225 homecoming spectators.
The TSU (4-1, 1-0 OVC) defense scored two touchdowns in the contest and held the Rattlers (0-4) to 224 total yards. The unit also notched 12 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Offensively, Ronald Butler started his second consecutive game at quarterback and finished the game 12-of-27 for 151 yards.
A 30-yard punt return from De’Ante Saunders set up the TSU offense at its own 49-yard line and a 24-yard rush by Tom Smith later on the drive set up the only score of the first quarter – a 22-yard field goal by Lane Clark at the 7:18 mark.
Butler led an 11-play, 95 yard scoring drive early in the second period, completing two long passes, one to Hakeem Parker for 18 yards and another to Archie Denard that went for 16. The aerial success led to a five-yard touchdown run by Telvin Hooks to increase the Tiger lead to 10-0.
Four plays later, true freshman Terrell Bonds picked off Damien Fleming’s crossing pattern and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. The defensive score put the home side up, 17-0, with 7:19 left in the first half.
Nick Thrasher got another interception for TSU and Clark booted a career-long 42-yard field goal to give TSU a 20-0 halftime lead.
The Tiger rushing game found its footing during the opening 30 minutes, gaining 88 yards on 17 rushes for a 5.2 yard per carry average.
The Rattlers finally punched it into the end zone at the 10:27 mark of the third quarter on a quarterback draw by Fleming. It was the only score of the period and capped a 10-play, 63 yard drive.
The Tiger defense struck again in the fourth quarter as Roc-M Nesbitt stripped the ball away from Carson Royal and Samquan Evans scooped it up and scored from 12 yards out. The big play on defense iced the game and put the Tigers ahead, 27-10, with seven minutes to play.
Big Blue will hit the road for its next contest when it travels to Southeast Missouri on Oct. 4.
NOTES: Hooks’s touchdown run in the second quarter was the junior’s first touchdown since Nov. 9, 2013 against Austin Peay… Hooks’s touchdown was the first for the Tiger offense since the second quarter of the Southern Heritage Classic, a span of 117:41 of game time… Bonds’s interception was the first of his career… The Tennessee State defense has forced at least one turnover in eight straight contests dating back to last year… TSU has had a pick-six in three straight contests… In his 31st start of his career, Thrasher’s interception before halftime was the first of his collegiate career… FAMU’s rushing TD in the third period was the first allowed by the TSU defense in seven quarters dating back to the Jackson State game… TSU attempted a fake punt in the third period and while Leon Holderhead completed the first pass of his career to Je-Marc Sears, it did not get the first down… Gabe Terry had three sacks in the game and now leads the team with seven. He has five in the last two contests… The Tigers have won four straight in the series and Rod Reed has never lost to the Rattlers…