NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State football team will host its last game in Hale Stadium this season when the squad takes on UT Martin, Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Tigers (4-3, 1-2 OVC) are looking to come out of a two-game slide - its first during the month of October since Rod Reed’s first season in 2010. The team fell last weekend to Jacksonville State, 27-20, which was the first loss in Hale Stadium since Nov. 15, 1997.
The Skyhawks enter the game with a 2-5 overall record, 1-3 in the OVC. The Skyhawks snapped a three-game losing streak last Thursday night when they squeaked by Tennessee Tech, 17-10.
Three Keys to the Game
Balance the Offense
Quarterback Mike German has had the offense humming the past two weeks, totaling 912 yards or an average of 456 per game. However, most of the recent success has come through the air, because in their last four contests, the Tigers have rushed for just 100.8 yards per game, 3.1 yards per carry and just three touchdowns. A more balanced attack this time out should help the running and passing games find more big plays.
UTM quarterback Jarod Neal enters Saturday’s game as the most efficient passer in the OVC (150.8). He has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 1,366 yards, 10 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He can also run the ball evidenced by his 73 yards on the ground against Tennessee Tech. The Tigers have only recorded two sacks in the past two games, after notching an average of five per contest before then. Getting defensive end Anthony Bass healthy should help, but perhaps more exotic blitzes can throw Neal off of his game.
Leave a Back to Block
UTM boasts one of the best sack-getters in the nation during the past couple of years in linebacker Tony Bell. Last season, Bell notched 10.5 sacks and this season he has 3.5. Against Tennessee Tech, he became the school’s all-time leader in quarterback wrap-ups with 18. TSU has done a great job in protection the last three weeks and have only surrendered two sacks. However, with a talent like Bell, the Tigers might want to leave a back in to give German more time to throw.
The Tigers are 15-8 all-time against UT Martin and won last year’s contest, 29-15.
This weekend’s game is also pivotal in the race for the Sgt. York trophy, given to the winner of the four OVC schools from Tennessee. TSU has won the award three straight years.