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September 01, 20181st2nd3rd4thFinal
Tennessee State14731034
1st Quarter
TSUTD02:07JOHNSON 20 Yd Pass From HUGHES (ZITA kick)
TSUTD00:03CORBIN 1 Yd Run (ZITA kick)
2nd Quarter
BCUFG11:26Uriel Hernandez 46 Yd
TSUTD00:10HUGHES 1 Yd Run (ZITA kick)
3rd Quarter
TSUFG11:43ZITA 23 Yd
4th Quarter
TSUFG05:59ZITA 23 Yd
Stats at a GlanceBCUTSU
1st Downs922
3rd Down Conversions2-138-17
4th Down Conversions0-30-0
Passing (Comp-Att)178 (17-31) 324 (19-32)
Rushing (Att)66 (25) 201 (45)
Total Yards244525
Fumbles Lost00
TSU Football Cruises Past Bethune-Cookman, 34-3, in the John Merritt Classic
Saturday, September 1, 2018
TSU Football Cruises Past Bethune-Cookman, 34-3, in the John Merritt Classic
Photo By Sam Jordan - TSU Athletics



Game 1: Tennessee State 34, Bethune-Cookman 3
Event: The 20th Annual John Merrit Classic
Records: TSU (1-0), B-CU (0-1)
Venue: Nissan Stadium
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Weather: Mostly Clear, 82
Kickoff Time: 6:24 p.m.
Attendance: 14,069

NASHVILLE --- Powered by 525 yards of total offense and an impressive defensive performance, the Tennessee State football team earned a 34-3 victory over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium in the 20th annual John Merritt Classic.

Chris Rowland, who was voted offensive MVP, finished with 154 yards on seven receptions. He added 64 yards on four punt returns and one rush for eight yards for 226 all purpose yards. 

Micheal Hughes and DeMarco Corbin had rushing touchdowns, while DeVon Johnson had a touchdtown catch. 

DaJour Nesbeth added the exclamation mark with a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown with just over five minutes to play in the game for a 34-3 lead. LaQuarius Cook picked up an interception earlier in the game for the defense. Blair Edwards won defensive MVP after registering seven tackles, one sack and one pass breakup. 

Freshman kicker Antonio Zita hit two field goals on the night in his collegiate debut.

TSU is back in action on Sept. 8 in Memphis for the Southern Heritage Classic versus Jackson State.


  • TSU outgained B-CU in total yards, 525-244
  • The Tigers gained 324 yards through the air, 201 on the ground
  • The defense surrendered 178 passing yards and held Bethune to 66 yards rushing
  • TSU collected 22 first downs, held B-CU to nine
  • Bethune-Cookman finished 2-of-13 in third down conversions and 0-for-3 on fourth downs
  • The defense recorded nine tackles for loss, including five sacks
  • TSU forced two turnovers, both interceptions
  • The Wildcats converted their first third down with 13:27 remaining in the fourth quarter
  • TSU won the Time of Possession battle, 35:46-24:14
  • The Tigers finished 5-of-6 in Red Zone Scoring Chances
  • Lone stop came as the clock ran out at the end of the game


  • Demry Croft earned the start and played in eight series, two in each quarter
  • Croft finished 8-of-14 for 154 yards and eight carries for 14 yards
  • Micheal Hughes played in five series, two in the first quarter, one in the second and one in the third, which carried into the fourth
  • Hughes finished 11-of-18 for 170 yards and one touchdown
  • On the ground, Hughes carried six times for 15 yards and crossed the goal line once
  • Chris Rowland amassed 226 all-purpose yards, setting career highs in receptions (7) and receiving yards (154)
  • Rowland added eight yards on one carry and 64 yards on punt returns
  • Nine Tigers carried the ball for 201 yards on 45 attempts
  • Te’kendrick Roberson led all runners with 67 yards on 13 carries, averaging 5.2 yards a run
  • DeMarco Corbin rushed three times for 21 yards, including a one yard touchdown blast
  • Shawn McColley posted the longest run from scrimmage, a 30-yarder
  • Seven different receivers caught a pass, totaling 324 yards on 19 receptions
  • Treon Harris followed Rowland with five catches for 81 yards
  • Tight end Kyle Oliver pulled in two passes for 40 yards, while DeVon Johnson caught two for 35, including a 20 yard touchdown
  • Blair Edwards and Dajour Nesbeth led the team with seven tackles
  • Nick Harper, Jr. led with five solo stops
  • Edwards had a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss
  • Christion Abercrombie and Khalil Jones joined Edwards with 1.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage
  • Abercrombie had 1.5 sacks, while Jones and Landon Brazile recorded 1.0; Dante’ Ferguson shared a sack with Abercrombie
  • Dajour Nesbeth and LaQuarius Cook picked off passes
  • Nesbeth returned his interception for a 39 yard touchdown
  • Jones, Justin Culpepper, Jeremy Patterson and Jeremiah Caine all recorded quarterback hurries
  • Antonio Zita scored 10 points in his collegiate debut, going 2-for-2 on field goal attempts and 4-for-4 on extra points


  • Demry Croft started the game at quarterback and worked the first two drives.
  • The Croft led offense went for 31 yards on eight plays.
  • Micheal Hughes worked the final two drives of the quarter, both going for touchdowns.
  • On his first drive, Hughes connected with Chris Rowland for a pair passes, covering 12 and 29 yards, respectively, helping the Tigers down to the Wildcats 24.
  • Three plays later, Hughes found DeVon Johnson down the left sideline for a 20 yard touchdown pass.
  • The defense would get the ball back on the next play from scrimmage as LaQuarius Cook intercepted a pass at the TSU 42 and returned it 19 yards into B-CU territory.
  • Hughes and Rowland teamed up again, this time for 25 yards on the first play of the series, moving down to the B-CU 14.
  • The Big Blue moved to the one as Johnson was hauled down just before the goal line on a 15 yard pass play from Hughes.
  • DeMarco Corbin powered in from a yard out on the next play, scoring his first touchdown as a Tiger.
  • TSU held a 14-0 lead after one period of play.
  • The Tigers outgained the Wildcats 146-77; 107-27 through the air.
  • The defense recorded four stops behind the line of scrimmage.


  • Bethune would get on the board with an eight play, 46 yard drive, which resulted in a field goal, making the score 14-3.
  • The drive stalled as Christion Abercrombie and Dante’ Ferguson pulled down Wildcat quarterback Akevious Williams for an 11 yard sack.
  • The teams traded possessions, until Hughes led another touchdown drive.
  • The redshirt-junior went 5-of-5 for 77 yards, capping the drive off with a one yard scoring plunge.
  • Treon Harris was targeted as the favorite receiver, catching three passes for 43 yards, while Rowland hauled in two passes for 19 yards.
  • The score gave the Tigers a 21-3 advantage four seconds before the break.
  • The defense held the Wildcats to 44 yards of total offense in the second quarter.
  • Bethune managed just four first downs through the first 30 minutes and was 0-for-6 on third down conversions, 0-1 on fourth downs.
  • At the break, TSU outgained B-CU 247-121.
  • Hughes finished the half 10-of-11 for 163 yards and a touchdown.


  • The Tigers took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove 48 yards on seven plays to set up an Antonio Zita 23 yard field goal to increase their lead to 24-3.
  • Steven Newbold gave the Big Blue a boost with a 34 yard kickoff return to the 46 yard line.
  • Croft wasted no time, finding Rowland for 36 yards, moving the ball to the Wildcats 18.
  • TSU would go to the ground attack with Croft calling his own number for three yards and Rowland picking up eight on his only run of the night.
  • Te’kendrick Roberson followed with back-to-back runs, putting the Tigers at the one.
  • The Bethune-Cookman defense held strong forcing the Tigers to settle for three.
  • The defense proved strong again, as they gained a turnover on downs by stuffing the Wildcats on a fourth down attempt.
  • On the Wildcats next possession, TSU forced their fifth of six three-and-outs of the game.
  • Rowland continued his MVP award winning night with a 39 yard punt return, allowing the Tigers to start their next series in enemy territory.
  • Seth Rowland started the drive with a six yard run to the Wildcats 35.
  • Hughes kept the drive alive by hitting Harris for a seven yard gain on a third and four.
  • The Tigers could get no closer and missed out on scoring as a Kaleb Mosley 46 yard field goal attempt sailed right of the goal posts.
  • After three quarters, TSU held a 17-6 advantage in first downs and had outgained the Wildcats, 363-191.
  • Through the first 45 minutes of the contest, B-CU was 0-for-9 on third down conversions and 0-for-2 on fourth down attempts.


  • The Wildcats first series of the fourth was its longest of the evening, using 10 plays.
  • The drive came to a close as the Tigers stopped the opponents on a fourth down attempt for the third time.
  • On the Tigers next possession, Croft found Chris Rowland on the first play for 35 yards to the B-CU 29.
  • TSU converted on a third-and-25 situation, as Croft connected with Harris on a 31 yard pass play down the middle to the 13.
  • A penalty on the next play negated a Earl Harrison touchdown run, forcing the Tigers to settle for Zita’s second 23 yard field goal of the game.
  • The defense continued to dominate as Dajour Nesbeth jumped an out route and return it 39 yards to the house for his first career pick-six.
  • The Tigers outgained the Wildcats in the fourth 162-53.


  • Weather at kickoff was 82 degrees and mostly sunny
  • Game time was delayed 24 minutes due to lightning during pregame
  • Official start time was 6:24 p.m.
  • Captains for TSU were Micheal Hughes, Demry Croft, Thomas Burton, Dell Porter and LaQuarius Cook.
  • TSU won the coin toss and deferred the opening kickoff.
  • First-time starters for Tennessee State included Demry Croft, Anthony Geter, Raekwon Allen, Mekhi Brown, Christion Abercrombie, Dante’ Ferguson Jr., Te'kendrick Roberson and Nick Harper Jr.
  • Tennessee State is now 8-2 in the all-time series versus Bethune-Cookman.
  • TSU improves to 13-6 all-time in the John Merritt Classic.
  • Rod Reed is 21-4 in his TSU head coaching career versus HBCUs.
  • Reed secured his 50th career win as TSU's head coach. 
  • The last time TSU had 200-plus yards rushing and two touchdowns on the ground was in the 2017 season opener at Georgia State.
  • TSU’s 525 yards of total offense are the most for the program since posting 577 on Nov. 22, 2014 at Murray State.
  • The Tigers have gone 8-1 in season openers under Head Coach Rod Reed.
  • Game was broadcasted on ESPN+

The Tigers will travel to Memphis, Tenn. to take on Jackson State in the Southern Heritage Classic on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Quarterback Micheal Hughes

(on being 1-0)
“It’s very important. That’s how you want to start the season off. I’m very excited. A lot of guys put in a lot of hard work for this moment. It’s very exciting to start the season off 1-0.”

(on chemistry with Chris Rowland)
“Chris and I worked all summer together. He’s a hard-working guys, and he gets open when he needs to, so he did a good job.

(on putting up 525 yards of total offense)
“That says we’re explosive. We’re in no huddle this year, so it gives us more opportunities - more snaps. It wasn’t a surprise for me. It’s great.”

Linebacker James Green
(on the success of the defense)
“Tonight’s success on the defensive side was great. Even though they had too many yards for us to be comfortable, we played a good game. We’re going to continue to get better.”

(on the mentality on third down)
“Put a foot on their neck. We weren’t going to let them come back. We were going to continue to play defense and be great. That’s how we’re going to play. We have to have some juice.”

(on the play of the newcomers)
“We set the tempo for the season, and we’re going to keep getting better week-by-week. We’re one defense. We’re going to continue helping each other.”

Safety LaQuarius Cook
(on winning the opening game)
“That’s big. We came out and played strong. First game so guys had to get the jitters out. We’ve got a lot of stuff we can learn from, but it’s good to get the win.”

(on winning the John Merritt Classic as a senior)
“It means a lot. I haven’t lost a John Merritt Classic since I’ve been here. I’m proud to say that.”

(on the strong play of the defense)
“That’s Coach (Garry) Fischer and the guys believing in what we do. We still have work to do. It was alright, but we’re trying to be number one in the nation, so we have work to do.”

Offensive Lineman Anthony Geter
(on the play of the offensive line)
“I think the offensive line did a great job of pass protecting and run blocking. We’re just doing what Coach E taught us all year. All camp, really, just dominate up front.”

(on switching quarterbacks)
“Sometimes we had issues with getting calls off and getting set, but it’s really no big deal. Both of them played well.”