NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 25 ranked Tennessee State football team will play host to No. 8 Jacksonville State at Hale Stadium on Saturday.
The Tigers enter the contest having just lost their first conference game of the year at Southeast Missouri, 28-21. TSU fell behind by three scores and a 505 yard offensive performance was not enough to overcome the deficit.
The Gamecocks are 4-1, 2-0 in the conference and their only loss came at Michigan State. Jacksonville State is coming off of a, 38-14, victory over UT Martin in which the team’s running back Miles Jones was named OVC Offensive Player of the Week.
Three Keys to the Game
Stop the Run
The Gamecocks are the top rushing team in the Ohio Valley Conference, averaging 262 yards per game. They also boast four of the league’s top nine rushers in DaMarcus James (86.2 y/g), Troymaine Pope (65.2 y/g), Jones (62.2 y/g) and quarterback Eli Jenkins (52.8 y/g). The Tigers are currently 12th in the nation in rush defense, but have had problems this year against feature running backs – Malcolm Cyrus of Alabama State had 170 yards and SEMO’s Lenneis McFerren had 115. Last season, TSU shut down JSU’s rushing attack to the tune of 21 total yards and the Tigers could use a similar production on Saturday.
The Tigers have had a tough time to open every game so far this season and have not scored a single point on an opening drive this year. They have ran a total of 18 plays on six opening drives for 41 yards total, a 2.27 yard per play average. In fact, second drives have not been too productive either, as TSU has just three points on their second possessions. Despite their slow starts, the Tigers have trailed in just two games this year, but lost both of those at ASU and SEMO. A solid opening quarter could ensure TSU leads for good against JSU.
Keep Airing it Out
Quarterback Mike German’s return to the field last Saturday signaled a return to a productive passing game. German was 34-of-59 for 362 yards and two touchdowns at SEMO and could have thrown for more scores if the Tigers would have had more success inside the red zone. TSU would do better to pass more as the Tigers are averaging 5.6 yards per attempt and just 4.4 yards per rush. That disparity is even greater in the last four games; TSU has received six yards per pass, but 3.5 yards per rush. Every team needs good balance, but the Tigers would do better on pressure situations if they go to the air.
TSU is 2-7 all-time against JSU, but won last year’s contest, 31-15. The Tigers have never beaten the Gamecocks at home in three meetings, but are 5-0 at Hale Stadium since returning to the on-campus site in 2012.
Saturday’s game will kickoff at 2:04 p.m. and be broadcasted online at ESPN3.com or on the WatchESPN app.