NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State defense held UT Martin to just 210 yards, but the Tigers still fell to the Skyhawks, 21-16, on Saturday at Hale Stadium.
The loss dropped TSU to 4-4 overall, 1-3 in the OVC and marked the first three-game losing streak for the team since a four-game stretch in 2011.
Quarterback Mike German finished the game 18-of-36 for 341 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and it was his third straight game with over 300 yards passing.
Senior receiver Ryan Mitchell caught six passes and set a new-career best with 156 yards and added a touchdown.
Nick Thrasher and Ezra Robinson paced the defense with 11 and 10 tackles, respectively.
After a first quarter that featured only 97 total yards (27 for TSU), UT Martin (3-5, 2-3 OVC) finally broke the scoreless tie with Reuben Duckworth’s first career touchdown at the 11:33 mark in the second. Duckworth’s 10-yard carry was the seventh rushing score given up by TSU in the last three games.
The TSU offense broke out of its drought three plays later when German hit Ryan Mitchell with a 39-yard bomb. However, three Tiger penalties forced them to settle for a 34-yard Lane Clark field goal. The kick cut the UTM lead by four with six minutes to play in the half.
Tennessee State tried to put up more points before the break – German completed back-to-back passes for 40 yards – but TSU couldn’t quite get across the fifty and the second quarter ended with the score 7-3.
TSU was outrushed, 110-23, during the first 30 minutes and the Tigers averaged just 1.8 yards per carry.
Tennessee State started the next stanza on the wrong foot, as German’s first pass of the quarter was intercepted by UTM’s nose tackle Keith Jones and returned 42 yards for a touchdown. The score put the Tigers down, 14-3, with only three minutes gone in the second half.
The Tigers suffered more misfortune later in the quarter when Telvin Hooks fumbled on the TSU 12-yard line and UTM’s Tony Bell scooped up the ball. Jarod Neal connected with Corey Rogers on second down for a seven-yard score and UTM went up, 21-3.
A 26-yard toss from German to Weldon Garlington to begin the fourth quarter marked TSU’s first touchdown of the game and the Tigers added another when German found Mitchell for a 75-yard deep ball. The two scores put TSU down by just five, 21-16, with 4:37 to go.
The TSU defense could not get the UTM offense off of the field on its next series, and the Skyhawks ran out the clock.
Tennessee State held UT Martin to just 67 yards passing, but the Big Blue offense had five three-and-outs and was just 4-of-14 on third down.
TSU will hit the road for the team’s next contest and travel to Eastern Illinois for a matchup with the Panthers. Kickoff for that game is scheduled for Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
NOTES: The loss marked the first time since 1995 that TSU was defeated in back-to-back bouts in the Hole in the same season… Michigan State transfer Ezra Robinson set a new career-high with 10 tackles… With his 11 stops, Nick Thrasher is now second in school history behind coach Rod Reed with 309… German’s 314 yards move him into second place on TSU’s all-time passing yards list. The redshirt senior now has 7,331… German’s 75-yard connection to Mitchell was TSU’s longest play from scrimmage this season… Attendance was 6,738…