TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Tigers took advantage of good field position to charge back and steal a win over rival Florida A&M on Saturday night. Tennessee State improved to 3-1 with a 30-14 win over the FAMU (0-4) in front of 18,020 at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
Coming out of halftime, the Rattlers went for the big play on the second snap from scrimmage. Carson Royal found Kareem Smith for a 46 yard touchdown toss giving FAMU a 14-7 lead with 12:05 remaining in the 3rd quarter.
The Tigers would respond in a big way, by scoring 23 unanswered points.
The tide started to turn when punter Austin Rowley pinned the Rattlers with a 48 yard punt to the 10. The defense held tight and forced FAMU to punt from their own end zone, creating strong field position for the Tigers.
TSU would need just six plays to move 47 yards for the game tying score. On a third and 15 from the FAMU 38, Ronald Butler launched a ball towards Dantwaun O’Neal, but a Rattler defender was there to break up the play. The ball bounded in a fortunate way for the Tigers and into the arms of Patrick Smith in the end zone.
Rowley would come through again on his next attempt. The freshman had his shortest punt of the evening at 37 yards, but the ball would be downed at the one yard line. Three plays later, Jason Morrow broke through the offensive line and hit running back Devondric Nealy behind the goal line to record a safety and gave the Tigers its first lead of the game at 16-14 with 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
After the safety, TSU received the ball and proceeded to attack the Florida A&M defense. Butler started the drive by hitting Smith for 10 yards, setting up the longest run of the game, a 27 yard blast up the middle by Telvin Hooks.
With the Tigers at the opponents 32, Butler went back to Smith who made a move on the defender for his second touchdown of the game. The Tigers extended its lead to 23-14 at the beginning of the fourth quarter on Smith’s fifth scoring reception of the season.
FAMU tried to make a comeback, but fell short as Ezra Robinson broke up a 4th and 9 pass at the TSU 40 with 6:40 remaining to give the ball back to the Tiger offense.
TSU sealed the game as they held onto the ball for six minutes as they picked up the final score of the game. Hooks was the workhorse on the drive carrying the ball six times for 64 yards, but Erick Evans would cap off the drive with the final two runs, the last being a one yard run to produce the final outcome, 30-14.
Smith led all receivers in the game with seven catches for 109 yards and two scores. Ronald Butler finished his homecoming with 194 yards on 16 completions and 33 attempts. The Tallahassee native threw for three touchdowns
Telvin Hooks carried the ball 13 times on the night for 117 yards, as the Tigers outgained FAMU 370 to 201 total yards.
Rowley completed the evening with seven punts for 308 yards, good for a 44.0 average. The San Diego, Calif., product placed three balls inside the 10.
FAMU opened the scoring early in the second quarter when Nealy returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown. The Rattlers would hold the lead Ronald Butler connected with Joshawn Bowens for a 12 yard touchdown reception 17 seconds before intermission.
The Tigers will observe an off week before traveling to face UT Martin on Oct. 10. The game will be the first in the Alvin York Trophy series.
Kickoff was at 6 p.m. Eastern Time… Weather at the time of kickoff was 86 degrees and partly cloudy… Florida A&M won the coin toss and received the opening kickoff… TSU’s four captains for the game were Florida natives: Telvin Hooks (Edgewater, Fla.), Gabe Terry (Palm Beach, Fla.), Tom Smith (Apopka, Fla.) and Dinsdale Jackson (Miami Gardens, Fla.)… TSU’s opponent scored first for the third time in four games… TSU now leads the all-time series with Florida A&M, 29-25… TSU has won five in a row in the series with the Rattlers… Tallahassee native Ronald Butler started at quarterback for the third of his career versus his hometown team, FAMU.
TSU Junior Quarterback Ronald Butler
“It’s always good to come home. You see your family and friends and they get to see you play. It was definitely good to get the ‘W’ today.”
-- On Playing Florida A&M
“It was a good win. We took a big defeat last week so we had to bounce back as a team and just get this ‘W’ to give us some confidence going into next week, which is our bye week.”
-- On TSU building its resume
“Every play, even if it’s a big play, you have to be onto the next. You have to have amnesia at the quarterback position.”
-- On overcoming an interception in the red zone
TSU Head Coach Rod Reed
“We knew coming into this game that it was going to be a tough football game for us. We had about six starters out for this game, and we lost two more starters in the first half. We knew it was going to be a tough out, but our kids persevered. We knew they were going to come out fighting. I told them in pregame that they are 0-3. They have a couple of choices. They can tuck their tail, or if you back them in a corner, they’re going to come out fight. They came out fighting. They came out with a lot of tenacity and got some big plays on us early.”
-- Thoughts on the win over Florida A&M
“I thought he played really well. He had a couple miscues, and he held the ball a little too long at times, but that’s because he’s a great athlete. When there’s nothing there, he can pull it down and get five or 10 yards easy. I encouraged him to do that a little more at the end of the first half, and Coach Parker called some great plays for him at the end of the first half to move the ball versus some coverage’s that he saw. It was really exciting to see him move the ball and play well at home.”
-- On TSU Quarterback Ronald Butler
“Austin (Rowley) did a great job punting the football. I think he put a couple inside the 10, and it was good to see him do that. I think he’s gotten the jitters out and he’s settled in. As long as we can protect him, he’ll kick the football well. The field position was important. We got them backed up and it freed us up to do a few more things defensively when you get a team backed up.”
-- On TSU’s punting and field position