MURRAY, Ky. --- Tennessee State's football team again dug itself an early hole on the way to a 51-27 defeat to host Murray State in Ohio Valley Conference play Saturday afternoon.
As has been the case for the Tigers several times this season, fighting uphill from an early deficit was the challenge for the Tigers. TSU trailed 30-7 at intermission.
The Tigers saw Murray State score 23 unanswered points in the first half to build its big lead after the score had been 7-7. The Tigers came out in the second half and showed some offensive spark, but committed a couple of costly turnovers.
"We did not come off the ball consistently and that was costly," said TSU head coach James Reese. "When we did come off the ball, we were able to make some plays."
TSU had 368 yards total offense, 248 coming in the final half. Riley Walker made the start at quarterback, but left the contest late in the third period with a right shoulder sprain. Kenny Irby saw the bulk of duty at quarterback the rest of the way, completing 8-13-1 passes for 139 yards and one TD. Walker was 10-17-1 for 194 yards and one TD. True freshman Dwayne Buchanan saw limited action in both halves.
The game was played in sustained wind throughout the afternoon. The Racers elected to kick off and TSU had to punt into the wind, giving MSU the football at the TSU 32-yard line and the Racers scored on their first possession.
The Tigers' offensive highlight in the first half tied the game. Walker hooked up with receiver C.J. Johnson on a middle screen play from TSU's 12-yard line. Johnson broke loose down the sideline for an 88-yard scoring play. The play was five yards shy of the longest pass play in TSU history of 93 yards set in 1969 when Joe Gilliam, Jr. connected with Joe Sweet.
Murray State then reeled off its 23 points to take the commanding lead into the locker room.
TSU broke into the deficit with 20 fourth-quarter points. Charles Anthony scored on the opening play of the period after Kivi Woods had blocked a punt, giving the Tigers the football at the Racer 4-yard line. Ricko Gibbs scored on a 1-yard plunge and Ande Durojaye was on the receiving end of a 43-yard pass from Irby with 1:43 remaining.
A long run set up the game's final score just 15 seconds later. James Bridges' 2-yard run closed out the game's scoring.