COOKEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tennessee State broke out of the gate for a 17-point first quarter, played solid defense and then locked up the game with a pair of big fourth quarter plays to secure a 31-20 victory over host Tennessee Tech Thursday night.
The Tigers, plagued by turnovers throughout the season, turned the tables on the statistic, forcing seven turnovers. The Tigers also added a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.
"They (Tech) were like us in the past and it is hard to win when you turn the ball over," said TSU first-year head coach James Webster. "Out of the four games we lost, we turned the ball over. You have to give them credit, they kept fighting, kept battling. That was the difference in the game was the turnovers."
The victory evened the Tigers record at 1-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference, giving first-year head coach James Webster his first conference coaching victory. The Tigers improve to 2-4 overall as they closed out a five-game road swing.
In addition to the defensive effort and special teams play, the Tiger got a big night from freshman running back Javarris Williams who rushed for a career-high 190 yards on 31 carries. Williams 53-yard scoring run helped seal the victory near the 10-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
"Javarris was the man today and he ran like he was capable," said Webster. "I told him that he was going to have to carry the load because of all the players that we lost. He was the difference along with the defense and turnovers."
The Tigers opened a 17-3 lead after the first period. Fullback Daniel Williams was on the receiving end of a 40-yard pass from Jerald Cook on Cook's first collegiate pass. Eric Benson connected on a 43-yard field goal and freshman defensive end returned a fumble 30 yards for a TD after stripping Tech quarterback John McCary on a pass attempt.
The scored remained 17-6 until TSU's Travis Lee broke through to block a punt that was picked up by Shannon Lightfoot and returned 33 yards for a TD.
The two teams then swapped scores. Larry Shipp scored on the first play after the kickoff on a 66-yard pass from McCray. The Tigers would score 23 seconds later as Williams scored on his 53-yard run.
The game's final score was a 2-yard run by Darren Sanders with 2:02 left.
Tech finished the game 448 yards. The Golden Eagles stretched the game was 52 pass attempts, completing 25 with three pass interceptions.
Frantzy Dorlean, Miguel Hall, and Aaron Strong all had interceptions. The Tiger fumble recoveries were by Jamar Landrom, Richardson, Wesley Holmes, and Almonte Duncan. Landrom had 12 tackles while Holmes added 10. Both players also forced a fumble.
The Tigers finished with 311 total yards. The Tigers had 233 yards on the ground. All 78 yards through the air came in the opening half. The Tigers started the game with seven straight pass completions.