Nashville, Tenn. – Just six days after dropping the John Merritt Classic to Bethune-Cookman, the Tennessee State football team looks to rebound on the road against another HBCU opponent in Florida A&M on Saturday.
Big Blue moved to 0-1 on the year with a, 12-9, loss at the hands of the Wildcats. The Tigers’ defense kept the team in the game, and provided the offense multiple opportunities to deliver the knockout blow.
Big Blue held B-CU to just 260 yards of total offense and senior safety David Van Dyke forced the game’s only turnover with an interception in the third quarter. TSU also only allowed 98 yards through the air, the lowest since last year’s game against Tennessee Tech on Oct. 27.
Preseason All-OVC linebacker Nick Thrasher came up big for the Tigers in week one, totaling 10 tackles including six solo stops. He was helped by defensive lineman Samquan Evans who was a force up front, racking up eight tackles including one for loss.
Offensively, freshman quarterback Ronald Butler will make his second career start at FAMU, a week removed from completing 13 of 21 passes for 132 yards. The Tallahassee, Fla. product was unblemished in terms of interceptions, but also did not lead a single touchdown drive.
Butler’s main target against Bethune was All-American tight end A.C. Leonard who caught five passes for 38 yards. The junior also had the team’s longest rush, a 31-yarder during the first quarter.
The rest of the TSU running attack combined for 85 yards on 37 carries for a 2.9 yard per attempt average.
Another bright spot for the team was its return game. Freshman receiver Michael Whittaker returned a punt for 25 yards and two kickoffs for 41 yards and Martine Stevenson also had a kick return of 43 yards. The 25.5 yards per punt and 28 per kickoff were much higher than the 7.8 and 19.1 the team averaged in 2012.
TSU’s opponent on Saturday will be the Rattlers of Florida A&M, who are coming off a 27-10 throttling of Mississippi Valley State in week 1.
In that game, FAMU had three different players score rushing touchdowns helping the team overcome its 15 penalties for 160 yards.
The Rattlers defense also had a good game, intercepting the ball three times and only allowing the Delta Devils 88 yards through the air. Mississippi Valley State was also just 2-of-12 on third down conversions during last week’s game.
TSU is 26-25-1 all-time versus Florida A&M with the previous win coming in last year’s John Merritt Classic, 17-14. Defense prevailed in that game which could be the case this year if week one is any indication.