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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee State football team will close out the 2015 season with a 2:30 p.m. contest at Tennessee Tech on Saturday. The Tigers enter the contest at 4-5, 1-5 in Ohio Valley Conference play, needing a win to record its fourth consecutive non-losing season. The Golden Eagles come into the weekend at 3-5, 2-5 in conference.
This also marks the final game of the Sgt. York Trophy series. Both teams enter at 1-1, vying for a runner-up position to UT Martin who claimed the trophy for the second consecutive year.
The game can be seen on American Sports Network, WUXP channel 30, and nationally on MASN (DirecTV: 640, Dish Network: 432). Jeff McCarragher will handle play-by-play duties while Michael Young will provide analysis. The game can also be heard on 102.1 FM The Light with Greg Pogue (play-by-play), Albert Dawson (analyst) and Gary Dawson (sideline). Pregame will begin at 2:00 p.m. CT.
This is the 29th meeting between TSU and TTU, with the Tigers holding an 18-10 advantage. Tennessee State won the first game in 1984, 33-3. The Tigers would gain victories during the first six games of the series, only to see the Golden Eagles reel off five straight wins from 1992-1996. TSU would break the streak with three consecutive wins, but Tennessee Tech responded with three wins of their own. The Big Blue is currently on a four game run and has won nine of the last 11 contests.
Three of the last four games have been decided by three points or less, including the Tigers 10-7 victory in 2014. TSU provided a dominant defensive performance at Hale Stadium by holding Tennessee Tech to just 150 yards of total offense.
Ronnie Vinson stepped in front of a Jared Davis pass and raced 50 yards to the end zone to provide a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter. The Golden Eagles had opened the scoring halfway through the first period with a 29-yard interception return. The Tigers had cut into the visitors lead when Lane Clark hit a 26-yard field goal less than a minute before the Vinson return.
Vantavious Williams led the defense with seven stops and Gabe Terry recorded two sacks. Ronald Butler was 15-of-24 for 113 yards and an interception, while teaming up with Weldon Garlington on six pass plays for 54 yards.
The Tigers comes into this year’s game with TTU after a much needed off-week following a 46-43 overtime loss to Murray State on Nov. 7. Quarterback O’Shay Ackerman-Carter and wide receiver Patrick Smith are coming off career games. Ackerman-Carter set new personal highs in attempts, yards and touchdowns, as he finished 23-of-33 for 329 yards and four touchdowns. Smith tied a career high with nine receptions as he amassed the second most yards, 248, in school history and brought in two touchdowns.
Smith leads the Tigers with 47 catches for 933 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 19.9 yards per catch and 103.7 yards per game; he has recorded six plays of 50-yards or more this season. The red-shirt sophomore needs 67 yards to become the seventh player in school history to reach 1,000 yards in a season. Smith has gone for at least 67 yards in six of the nine games played in 2015.
The Memphis native is ranked ninth on the single season receiving yards list, one yard behind Mike Jones of 1980 (934) and 46 behind Mike Jones of 1982 (979). Smith entered the top 10 during the game versus Murray State, surpassing Corey Sullivan from 1998 (923) and knocking C.J. Johnson's 2001 total of 910 from the list.
Redshirt-sophomore Ebenezer "Ebo" Ogundeko is coming off a career game, as he recorded three sacks to go along with his 10 tackles, seven solos, and 3.5 tackles-for-loss totaling 24 yards. Ogundeko, along with junior Rodney Edwards, top TSU with 9.0 tackles for loss and joins sophomore Latrelle Lee as they lead the team in sacks with four a piece.
Sophomore linebacker Chris Collins leads the defense with 74 tackles, 36 solo, as true freshman Blair Edwards has led the unit over the last two weeks with 26 tackles, 13 in each game.
For the Golden Eagles, Brock McCoin has been a triple-threat this season as a receiver, a rusher and at quarterback. McCoin went for 264 yards on nine receptions in the opening game at FBS #13 Houston, while rushing for 115 yards on 19 carries and completing 8-of-12 passes for 206 yards versus Austin Peay.
McCoin looks to be back at receiver this week and is looking to become number one in the TTU record books for receptions and yards in a season. McCoin is seven catches and 176 yards shy for each category, respectively.
Ladarius Vanlier poses another triple-threat for TTU as a runner, a receiver and a return specialist. Vanlier leads the Golden Eagles with 120 rushes for 622 yards, is fourth in receptions with 17 for 175 yards and averages 24.9 yards per kick-off return.
Defensively, Tra'Darius Goff leads the way with 116 tackles, 46 solos, 6.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 sacks.