MEMPHIS --- Tennessee State started with a strong defensive and special teams performance and then the Tiger offense started rolling to lead the way to a 44-14 victory in the 14th Southern Heritage Classic Saturday night in the Liberty Bowl.
A crowd of 52,603 was on hand for the nationally-televised contest on Black Entertainment Television (BET). A heavy rain began just before the end of the first half and continued into the second half before turning to the drizzle and then picking up with a steady shower in the final two minutes of play.
The Tigers blocked an early punt to set up one touchdown and forced four turnovers in the contest. The Tiger offense, which ran just 18 plays totaling 114 yards in the opening half, began to take control in the third period, keeping the football for more than 10 minutes and rolling up 172 yards in the frame.
Jackson State had several early scoring opportunities, but only came way with a long TD in the opening half.
?Our defense and special teams did the job early for us,? said TSU head coach James Reese. ?Our offense got it going and our rushing attack came through for us.?
TSU finished the game with 341 yards in total offense. The Tigers had two players go over the century mark in rushing as Carlos Wright had 113 yards and Charles Anthony had 110, crossing the 100-yard for the third straight game to start the season.
Anthony had runs of 16 and 36 yards in the third quarter as the Tigers broke away from a 16-6 halftime lead. The 36-yard run came on a fourth-and-five play.
Wright had a scoring run late in the first half and added a receiving touchdown on a 7-yard reception from redshirt freshman quarterback Richard Hartman under the two-minute mark. TSU final score came on a 67-yard punt return by Jarrett Morrow with 48 seconds left. Morrow, another redshirt freshman, was playing his first college game in his hometown.
The Tigers got the board early as Paul Thomas broke through and blocked a Dominich Addison punt at the JSU 30 yardline. Thomas returned the ball to the 20, then pitched the ball to Ahmed Safeullah who ran into the end zone for the touchdown.
Jackson State pulled to with a point when Robert Kent through six yards to Tim Manning with 5:34 remaining in the first half. However, the Tigers Manny Robles blocked the extra point attempt to keep the Tigers in the lead.
The Tigers closed out the first half. Thomas caused a fumble by Kent in the end zone that JSU recovered for a safety with 2:34 remaining.
After the free kick, TSU got the ball at the JSU 36-yardline. On the second play, Wright broke free for a 36-yard scoring run at the 1:36 mark. Joey Hudak's extra point gave the Tigers a 16-6 lead that the team carried into halftime.