NASHVILLE --- Tennessee State used a 24-point second quarter on its way to posting a 41-8 victory over the visiting Prairie View A&M Panthers in the Fourth Annual John Merritt Classic and the Tigers’ home opener in the Coliseum Saturday night.
The Tigers used the big play on both sides of the football to pull away from the Panthers in the first meeting between the two schools since 1971. The Tigers bounced back from last week’s tough 26-20 setback at South Carolina State to improve to 1-1 on the young season.
“We gave great effort and did some good things out there tonight,” said Tiger coach James Reese. “However, we must improve and take advantage of scoring opportunities after turnovers and also cut down on our own mistakes. We had too many penalties.”
TSU had 472 yards total offense, 279 through the air and 193 with its ground attack. Senior transfer Sugar Sanders made his home debut and went over the century mark with 105 yards on 19 carries.
The TSU passing attack saw 10 different players on the receiving end of passes from Tiger signal callers. C.J. Johnson had four catches for 125 yards. Ronald Jackson had two catches, but both were TD receptions.
TSU’s defense also had a big night. The Tigers forced six Panther turnovers. Junior defensive back Ahmed Safeullah had an exceptionally big night for the unit. Safeullah had an 85-yard interception for a TD to close out the second quarter with 1:42 left in the half. He also added a fumble recovery, a sack-and-a-half, and two pass breakups.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Tigers got on the board with 10:43 remaining in on a Jackson reception of 24 yards from Kenny Irby. Receiver Carlos Wright lined up in the backfield at tailback and broke loose on a 54-yard run just a little more than minute later.
Following a Joey Hudak 37-yard field goal at the 3:23 mark. Safeullah made his interception return down the sideline to stop a Panther scoring threat and swell TSU’s lead to 24-0 heading into intermission.
TSU continued its momentum early in the second half. Riley Walker, who made the start at quarterback, returned to the lineup to fire a pair of scoring passes. He hooked up with Johnson from 47 yards and had a 26-yard scoring pass to Jackson as the Tigers lead was 38-0 with 9:01 left in the third quarter.
The Panthers avoided the shutout when receiver Bertrum Jackson caught a tipped pass in the end zone for a TD. Quarterback Joseph Vaughn, who threw the pass, ran for the two-point conversion. Jackson had three catches for 100 yards to lead the Panthers.
TSU’s final points came on a 27-yard field goal by Hudak in the fourth quarter. Hudak has converted all four field goal attempts this season.
The Tigers will next meet Jackson State in the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis next Saturday.