Tigers' Slow Start Costly, Drop Season Finale to Murray, 24-17
Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tigers Record Best Finish Since 2001

Murray, Ky. - The Tigers could not rebound from a sluggish first half, dropping their final game of the season to conference opponent Murray State (5-7, 4-4), 24-17. TSU finishes the season 8-4 overall and 5-3 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The record is the best finish under head coach James Webster and the Tigers first eight-win season since 2001.

The Tigers closed out the first half with 79 total yards on 22 plays trailing the Racers 17-7. MSU put points on the board first with a 28-yard field goal and a 9-yard touchdown pass, their first since October.

The Tigers cut the lead when Antonio Heffner connected with JaJuan Spillman on a 15-yard touchdown pass to shrink the defecit, 10-7. The score capped an eight play, 49-yard drive with 5:16 remaining in the half. Heffner did not start due to injury, but entered the game in critical situations, reviving the offense on key possessions. 

Heffner finished  10-of-17 for 112 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Spillman hauled in 11 catches (86 yards) including one for a score. He also rushed for 34 yards on five carries. Chris Johnson led all receivers with seven catches for 110 yards.  

Two drives later, a TSU muffled punt put the Racers deep in Tiger territory with :54 seconds remaining in the half. MSU increased the lead going into the break with another 9-yard touchdown pass, 17-7.

The Tigers opened the first half driving 66 yards on 11 plays for a score (5:24) when Dominic Grooms completed a touchdown pass to Brandon Belvin. Grooms, making his second start of the season, threw 11-of-16 for 98 yards and one score, throwing one interception. The Racers answered back with a 30-yard touchdown pass before Eric Benson hit a 22-yard field goal with 4:05 remaining in the third, closing the Racers' lead, 24-17.

The Tiger defense caused two turnovers late in the fourth quarter and held the Racers offense to give TSU another opportunity to tie the ball game with 1:32 remaining. Larry Williford led the Tigers with nine tackles (7 solo) including four for a loss and one forced fumble.

Heffner connected with Johnson on a fourth-down play before rushing 16 yards  to the Racers' five yard line. With 10 seconds left in the game, the Tigers' chance of sending the game into overtime failed when both passes in the end zone fell incomplete.