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Wednesday, October 20, 2004
NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee State Tigers are preparing for their first home game since the season opener. The Tigers will be hosting a tough-luck Samford University team when the teams meet Saturday (Oct. 23) afternoon in the Coliseum. Kickoff is set for 2:30. The Tigers will be glad to be back home after playing five games over six weeks away from their home field. TSU is 3-3 overall and 1-1 within the Ohio Valley Conference. Samford has posted a misleading 2-5 overall record and are 1-3 in the OVC. Before snapping a three-game losing streak with a 34-20 win over Tennessee-Martin last week, the Bulldogs had lost their three OVC games by three points each. One of the losses was a four-overtime decision to Southeast Missouri and another was a double overtime defeat against Eastern Kentucky. Murray State held on for a 24-21 win in the Bulldogs' other conference tilt. The Tigers will be looking for consistency when they make the welcome return home. The Tigers will be out to snap a three-game losing streak that began with a tough 21-15 loss to Florida A&M in the Atlanta Classic. The Tigers could never get going in a 30-13 loss to South Carolina State in the Circle City Classic. Last week, the Tigers fell behind 35-7 to unbeaten Jacksonville State before eventually dropping a 49-35 decision. Samford was predicted to finish third in the OVC this fall while TSU was chosen sixth. The Bulldogs swept all three major awards in their first season in the conference last season. Bill Gray received Coach of the Year honors while receiver Efrem Hill and defensive back Cortland Finnegan received the offensive and defensive awards, respectively. "You can't be fooled by Samford's record," said Tiger head coach James Reese. "They have some tough losses in the conference, plus they have gone against good teams like Georgia Tech and Furman outside the league. We know we will have our work cut out for us against a team expected to challenge for the OVC championship." In Hill, the Tigers will have to guard one of the nation's top receivers at any level. Hill has 51 catches for 666 yards and eight touchdowns. Hill only had two catches for 25 yards in the win over UT Martin. Finnegan suffered a broken arm in the Eastern Kentucky game. He did not dress out for the UTM game and his status is uncertain for this week's game. The Tiger offense had its best outing of the season. Riley Walker made his first start of the season at quarterback and complete 27-44-0 passes for 381 yards and four TD's. Walker hooked up with receiver Fred Burnette on an OVC record 99-yard scoring pass. Walker was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week and Wednesday morning received the Don Hansen National Offensive Player of the Week honor. The Tigers defense will look to regroup after allowing 585 yards last week and the season-high 49 points. Samford's offense is led by quarterback Ray Nelson, who is the nation's leader in I-AA football for points responsible per game. Nelson is a threat both running and throwing the football. Safety Justin Williams leads the OVC in interceptions while defensive end Paul Thomas is the conference leader in tackles for loss. The Tigers and Bulldogs have a very limited history. TSU and Samford met for the first time last season in Birmingham with the Tigers taking a 29-24 in front of the second largest attendance at a Samford home game.