NASHVILLE, Tenn. - On Saturday, the Tennessee State football team will travel to Eastern Illinois for an Ohio Valley Conference matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
The Tigers (4-4, 1-3 OVC) are coming off of a, 21-16, loss at home to UT Main, the most current entry in their three-game losing streak. It is currently the longest slide for the team since a four-game stretch in 2011.
The Panthers (2-5, 2-1 OVC) just crushed Southeast Missouri, 52-13, for their second win of the season. The Eastern Illinois defense forced five turnovers in the victory, including four interceptions.
Three Keys to the Game
Win the Turnover Battle
Over the last three games, the TSU offense has given the ball away nine times while the defense has just four takeaways (all against Jacksonville State). Both stats have contributed to the rough patch as the Tigers are 11-1 in the last two seasons when they come out positive in turnover margin. When they have the same or less takeaways than its opponents, Big Blue is just 3-7. It may seem simple, but TSU needs to take better care of the ball against the Panthers to give itself a shot at more scoring drives.
EIU’s junior quarterback Jalen Whitlow has been the most productive quarterback in the OVC this season, averaging 258.7 yards per game. TSU fans will remember last year’s EIU QB Jimmy Garoppolo who also led the OVC in total yards. The Panthers’ current signal-caller is more mobile than his predecessor and is second in the league in rushing yards per contest (79.7). The Univ. of Kentucky transfer’s eight scores on the ground are also tops in the conference. TSU leads the nation in passing defense (129.8 y/g), but the unit must also focus on Whitlow’s running ability if the Tigers are to stop their slide.
Maintain Status Quo on Defense
In addition to being the best in pass defense, the Tigers’ D is also third in total defense (251.3 y/g) and eighth in scoring (16.3 p/g). Even in a losing effort last week, Big Blue held the Skyhawks to just 210 yards – 67 through the air. TSU has been dominant on defense the past three seasons, but EIU has gained 567 and 553 yards in the two meetings during that span. The Tigers need to have a short memory and play like they are accustomed to shut down the high-flying Panther attack this time around.
EIU holds a 10-7 edge in the series and won twice last season, the latter of which ended TSU’s season in the FCS Playoffs.
Saturday marks EIU’s homecoming and fans can catch all the action on ESPN3 at 1:30 p.m.