Cookeville, Tenn. – The Tennessee State football team scored 34 unanswered points and survived a late rally to defeat Tennessee Tech, 41-21, Saturday night in front of 10,044 spectators and a national ESPN3 audience.
The TSU offense set season highs in total yards (438), passing yards (343) and points (41) on the way to the first Ohio Valley Conference victory of the season.
A.C. Leonard caught five passes for a career-high 122 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Samquan Evans paced the TSU defense, setting a personal-best with eight stops and added 2.5 tackles for loss.
Tennessee Tech (2-2, 0-1 OVC) took the ball 79 yards down the field on the game’s opening drive and TTU center James Normand recovered a fumble in the end zone to put the Golden Eagles ahead, 7-0, with nine minutes left in the first period.
The touchdown signified the first points that the Big Blue defense had surrendered in the first quarter this season and the first time since last year’s game against TTU that the Tigers had allowed a touchdown on the opponent’s opening possession.
Butler’s scoring toss knotted the score at seven apiece, was TSU’s first touchdown pass of the season and the first of his and Mitchell’s careers.
Later in the quarter, a 43-yard punt by Leon Holderhead forced the TTU offense to start on its own one-yard line. On the Golden Eagles’ first play, running back Ladarius Vanlier coughed up the ball and TSU’s Nick Thrasher recovered, inches from the goal line.
On TSU’s ensuing possession, Broughton ran the ball up the right side, broke an arm tackle and forced his way into the end zone. The rushing score and PAT that followed put TSU ahead, 14-7, to start the second quarter.
Broughton finished the contest with 28 carries for 86 yards for a 3.1 yard per carry average.
After a three-and-out by TTU, Big Blue got the ball and marched it 46 yards down the field. Butler keyed the drive, completing all three of his passes for 27 yards. A sack stalled the drive in Tennessee Tech territory, but the Tigers still salvaged a 39-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey that gave TSU a ten-point cushion with 8:24 to go before halftime.
A 52-yard field goal try by Godfrey just prior to halftime fell short and TSU went into the locker room holding a 17-7 lead.
Butler’s 139 passing yards at the break were the most for TSU in any full game this season.
Michael German came in at quarterback to begin the second half, but his first two drives under center did not result in points.
At the 9:22 mark in the third quarter and with the TTU offense on the move, TSU safety David Van Dyke picked up his FCS-leading fourth interception of the season.
This time, German led a scoring drive on TSU’s next offensive series that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Godfrey. The kick made the score 20-7 with 5:24 left in the third period.
The Tigers struck pay dirt again on their following possession as German completed a deep pass to Leonard for an 80-yard touchdown. The bomb put TSU up by 20 and nearly doubled German’s 42 yards that he tallied against Jackson State.
German found Leonard again early in the fourth quarter and this one also went for a touchdown. Leonard’s three-yard grab capped off a nine-play drive that spanned 58 yards and put the Tigers up 34-7. German was 3-of-5 on the drive for 43 yards.
TTU scored a touchdown with 7:27 left in the game and recovered a fumble on TSU’s next offensive play. The turnover set up another TTU touchdown with just over two minutes left to pull Tech within 13 at 34-21.
TSU eventually iced the game when German found Lavatiae Kelly wide open for a 43-yard pass and catch that resulted in the game’s final touchdown.
German finished 8-of-14 for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Kelly had a game-high six grabs for a career-high 95 yards.
Tennessee State will take a week off from OVC competition when the squad travels to St. Louis, Mo. for a matchup with Central State in the Gateway Classic on Sept. 28.