JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – The Tennessee State football team had a solid start defensively but the Jacksonville State offense would gain the upper hand for the remainder of the game. JSU claimed a 48-13 win on Saturday afternoon in front of 23,413, the largest crowd in Burgess-Snow Field history.
Offensively, the top ranked Gamecocks (2-1) took control of the game as they outgained TSU (2-1) 576 -208.
The defense stood strong on the first Gamecocks possession. After an Eli Jenkins 30-yard run to the TSU 25, the Big Blue forced a stop three plays later. Jacksonville State would come away emptyhanded as kicker Connor Rouleau missed wide right on a 44-yard field goal attempt.
On JSU’s second series, the defense once again stepped up as Ezra Robinson jumped a Jenkins pass at the TSU 17 and returned 83 yards for an apparent touchdown. But two unsportsmanlike penalties nullified the score and brought the ball back to the JSU 41.
On the ensuing drive, Ronald Butler entered the game due to an injury to O’Shay Ackerman-Carter, for the second consecutive week. The redshirt-freshman exited as he took a blow to the head, which resulted in a targeting infraction versus JSU.
The offense was stymied and was forced to punt, disallowing TSU an opportunity to take advantage of the turnover.
Jacksonville State would breakthrough and scored on the final three possessions to take a 21-0 lead into the break. JSU would add to the advantage with a field goal to open the second half.
The Tigers offense tried to respond in the second half as they attacked the secondary on its first play of the final 30 minutes. Butler went deep and found Patrick Smith wide open down the right sideline. The wide out outraced the Gamecock defenders for an 84-yard touchdown.
The play is the sixth longest passing play in school history, just behind an 85-yard pass play from Leon Murray to Corey Sullivan versus Florida A&M on Sept. 26, 1998.
The touchdown is the fourth of the season for Smith and it is the third play of the season 50-yards or more.
The defense forced a three-and-out on the next JSU series allowing the TSU offense to find its rhythm. Butler would go to work as he found a new favorite in Isaiah Jeffries-Freeman. On a third and four from the JSU 45, Butler hit Jeffries-Freeman for 22 yards and a first down. The duo would team up again on the very next play, this time for a 23-yard touchdown pass. The play would bring the Tigers back within 11 as the made the score 24-13.
TSU could not get any closer as the Gamecocks reeled off 24 consecutive points.
Butler finished the day 6-of-13 for 155 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Tigers will step out of OVC play for the last time this season as the face Florida A&M. The game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on September 26 in Tallahassee, Fla.
TSU started with the ball for the third game in a row after Jacksonville State won the coin toss and deferred … Weather at kickoff was 84 degrees and sunny … Ezra Robinson’s first quarter interception was the first for TSU’s defense of the season … For the Michigan State transfer, it is the first interception of his TSU career … Patrick Smith caught his fourth touchdown of the season … He has scored at least one touchdown in all three of TSU’s games this year … The Ronald Butler to Patrick Smith 84-yard TD pass was the 6th longest passing play in TSU history … Today’s attendance of 23,413 was the largest crowd in Burgess-Snow Field history … Jacksonville State holds a 9-2 lead in the all-time series with TSU.
TSU Head Coach Rod Reed
“I thought we went out and played well early. Defensively in the first quarter, we shut them out. We had a pick-six, and we got a really silly penalty that cost us getting points on the board. From that point on, we let them score 21 points in the second quarter which had to do with turnovers and our defense being on the field a lot. We didn’t get very much going on offense early on, but we were able to come in at halftime and make some adjustments, but we never stopped them on defense today. They wore our defense down. They leaned us. We’ve got to learn from this and move on. I’m focused on Florida A&M right now. You can’t let one game beat you twice. There’s a reason Jacksonville State is the number one team in the country. We got beat by a better football team today, and it will be my job to get this team going back in the right direction and go down to Tallahassee and try to get a win at Florida A&M.”
-- Thoughts on the game
TSU sophomore cornerback Terrell Bonds
“We started off great, but we had a couple penalties that didn’t go our way throughout the game. We made a few mistakes but we have to get back to the drawing board and get ready for Florida A&M.”
-- On the play of TSU’s defense
TSU redshirt-junior wide receiver Isaiah Jeffries-Freeman
“(Ronald) Butler saw something really quick, really early. He made a good read and he was able to get the ball to his playmakers. The line did a great job of holding up their line, and it was just two quick scores that helped boost us for the moment.”
-- On TSU’s offense scoring two touchdowns in the third quarter
TSU junior quarterback Ronald Butler
“We have a lot of stuff to tighten up on. We’ve got to be more disciplined. We had too many flags, and we’ve just got to be a better and more disciplined team.”
-- On TSU’s offense
“We’re going to hop in the film room and get on the practice field and get better. We need to prepare for Florida A&M. This game’s in the past. We need to get over it and get ready for the next team.”
-- On looking ahead to Florida A&M
TSU sophomore linebacker Chris Collins
“It was a good experience. I feel like it was a wakeup call for us. We played a really good football team but I feel like we beat ourselves. We shot ourselves in the foot with some undisciplined penalties and I feel like we could have played a lot better. We can’t do anything but get better and move onto Florida A&M.”
-- On opening OVC play