Tigers Victorious in Season Opener
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. The Tennessee State University Tigers (1-0) defeated the Alabama A&M University Bulldogs (0-1) and won their first season opener under head coach James Webster, with a 34-13 win at Louis Crews Stadium.
TSU took the early lead in the contest, capitalizing on opportunities and manufacturing scores in every aspect of the game. The Tigers tallied points on defense (6), offense (12) and on special teams play (16).
On their first possession, the Tigers drove 52 yards on 12 plays to score with a 31-yard field goal by Eric Benson for a 3-0 lead at 8:41. The Bulldogs grabbed their only lead, 7-3, after a TSU fumble at the 28-yard line and scored on a five- yard touchdown with 1:21 remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers struck back early in the second quarter (14:14) when QB Antonio Heffner connected with WR JaJuan Spillman for a 65-yard touchdown. Benson's extra point made the score 10 - 7. Heffner finished the game completing 16 of 30 passes, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions.
After a Bulldog field goal tied the score at 10-10 (7:56), Spillman scored his second long touchdown of the game, returning the ensuing kick-off 94 yards for a 17-10 Tiger lead with 7:43 remaining. Benson connected another field goal as time expired and the Tigers would go up at halftime, 20 10.
Senior RB Javarris Williams punched in a 12-yard run midway through the third quarter to push the Tigers ahead 27-10 for the only score in the period. Williams finished with 71 yards rushing on 18 carries with six receptions for 64 yards.
In the fourth quarter, AAMU booted a 43 yard field goal (12:02) for a 27-13 score, but Tiger linebacker Rodney Fritz eliminated all speculations of a comeback when he scooped up a Bulldog muffled snap, returning it 50 yards, pushing the game to its final score, 34 -13 with 8:50 remaining.
Despite ten penalties for 71 yards, the Tigers assault was complimented by senior Chris Johnson’s six receptions for 127 yards.
Defensively, TSU was led in tackles by newcomer Eugene Clifford and sophomore Rico Council. Clifford finished with a team leading seven tackles (five solo) while Rico followed with six tackles (four solo).
The Tigers will face Southern University (0-1, 0-0) in the 10th Annual John Merritt Classic, September 6 in Nashville, Tenn.