RICHMOND, Ky. – Tennessee State was unable to score in the first half despite possessing the ball for over 19 minutes, allowing Eastern Kentucky to build an unsurmountable lead. The Colonels (5-2, 4-0) earned a 45-21 win on Saturday afternoon as the Tigers dropped to 3-4 and 0-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
The Tigers found themselves behind 31-0 midway through the third quarter before putting points on the scoreboard. Erick Evans broke off the longest running play since 2013 with a 62-yard touchdown run down the right sideline.
The Tigers would use the big play again to find the end zone. Trailing 38-7, Ronald Butler went for the home run ball as he hit Patrick Smith in stride for a 63-yard touchdown pass. It was the fourth time this season has gone over 50 yards on a play and it is his seventh scoring reception of the season.
TSU tried to continue its comeback bid as Butler notched his second scoring pass of the day. Butler found Quindell Cousin across the middle for an 18-yard touchdown. Cousin was met as he caught the ball at the two-yard line, but the red-shirt sophomore barreled his was across the goal line to cut the score to 38-21 with 10:07 remaining in the game.
EKU would shut the door on the Tigers with another score and ending the Big Blue’s hope for an epic comeback.
On the day, the Colonels outgained TSU 549-351 despite Butler throwing for 222 yards. The junior quarterback finished the game 23-of-37 and threw a pair of interceptions to go along with his scoring tosses.
Smith led the receiving corps with a career high nine receptions for 119 yards and the score. On the ground, Evans lad TSU with 85 yards on seven carries.
In the first half, the Tigers were haunted by miscues from all facets of the game. A missed field goal, after a false start negated a made attempt, and an interception in the end zone kept TSU off the board. With three minutes remaining before the half, EKU found themselves on the board again, making the score 17-0, as the Tiger defense surrendered an 80-yard scoring run.
The Tigers return home looking for its first conference win as they host Austin Peay on Oct. 31. Kick-off is set for 2:00 p.m. at Hale Stadium.
EKU won the coin toss and deferred, electing to kick off to open the game … At Kickoff: 67 degrees, rainy and cloudy … TSU Captains: Joe Bowens, Bernell Brooks, Aaron Woods … Javon Brandon’s first quarter interception was his first of the season and the fifth as a team for the Tigers … The 62-yard run by Evans was the longest rush by TSU since Sept. 23, 2013 versus Central State … The rush was the longest for TSU versus a Division I opponent since Sept. 25, 2010 against Florida A&M … Patrick Smith’s 64-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter tied his second-longest reception in his career. Smith also caught a 64-yarder against Jackson State on Sept. 12. Smith’s career-best was 84-yard touchdown versus Jacksonville State on Sept. 19 … Quindell Cousin’s 18-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was his second career touchdown … Patrick Smith made a career-high nine receptions … TSU has now gone 2-3 away from home this season and is 1-3 in true road games on the year … Saturday marked the 28th meeting between TSU and EKU … TSU falls to 5-23 in the all-time series versus Eastern Kentucky.
TSU Head Coach Rod Reed
“I thought defensively we had a pretty good game plan. They got a big play in the first quarter that was able to spark them. We did some good things. We got a pick at the beginning of the game that sparked us, but we didn’t capitalize in the red zone in the first half. We just made some mistakes that we can’t make when you’re trying to beat a good football team. Give them a lot of credit. They’re number 13 in the nation for a reason.”
-General thoughts on the game
“These kids aren’t going to quit. If I know anything, it’s that we have a tough group of guys. We’re not where we want to be right now. We have a long way to go, but I know that they show character and they know whatever situation they’re in, they need to keep fighting.”
-On posting 21 points in the second half.
TSU Running Back Erick Evans
“It was great blocking up front. I saw the hole, and I just accelerated and hit it. It was a really big block by Joe Bowens. He sealed the edge, and when I saw the gap, I just hit it.”
-On his touchdown run
“We went to the no-huddle and we started calling the plays from the sideline. Once we started doing that, we could take advantage of what they were lining up in. Holes started opening up and seams started opening up, and people started making plays.
-On TSU’s adjustments
TSU Wide Receiver Patrick Smith
“At halftime, we just said, ‘We have to fight. We have to fight.’ We came out and rotated more receivers and we made some more plays.”
-On sparking the offense
TSU Quarterback Ronald Butler
“We started off slowly. We got in the red zone a couple of times. They weren’t really stopping our drives, but we shot ourselves in the foot in the red zone. We need to put up points when we’re down in the red zone.”
-On the offense
“That shows character, and I love that about my teammates. It shows that we have the will to want to win. Things didn’t go for us how we wanted in the first half, but we still came out and fought in the second half”
-On scoring 21 points after halftime