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September 22, 20181st2nd3rd4thFinal
Tennessee State013131541
Eastern Illinois1777940
1st Quarter
EIUTD02:50BRANTLEY 2 Yd Run (BRUNO kick)
2nd Quarter
TSUFG13:36ZITA 37 Yd
EIUTD11:55GOOCH 71 Yd Pass From BRANTLEY (BRUNO kick)
TSUFG06:13ZITA 36 Yd
TSUTD00:19ROWLAND 18 Yd Pass From HARRIS (ZITA kick)
3rd Quarter
EIUTD10:46JOHNSON 32 Yd Run (BRUNO kick)
TSUTD08:01HARRIS 30 Yd Pass From CROFT (ZITA kick)
4th Quarter
TSUFG08:46ZITA 37 Yd
Stats at a GlanceTSUEIU
1st Downs3120
3rd Down Conversions7-155-14
4th Down Conversions0-00-0
Passing (Comp-Att)349 (28-42) 393 (30-49)
Rushing (Att)195 (46) 73 (20)
Total Yards544466
Fumbles Lost21
TSU Football Storms Back to Defeat EIU, 41-40
Saturday, September 22, 2018
TSU Football Storms Back to Defeat EIU, 41-40
Photo By Sam Jordan - TSU Athletics



Game 2: Tennessee State 41, Eastern Illinois 40
Records: TSU (2-0, 1-0 OVC), EIU (0-4, 0-1 OVC)
Venue: O'Brien Stadium
Location: Charleston, Ill.
Weather: Cloudy, 63
Kickoff Time: 2:24 p.m.
Attendance: -- 7,670

CHARLESTON, ILL. --- Trailing by as many as 21 points in the second quarter, the Tennessee State football team stormed all the way back to earn a hard-fought 41-40 road victory over Eastern Illinois on Saturday at O’Brien Field in the Ohio Valley Conference opener for both teams.

Saturday marked the first win for TSU (2-0, 1-0 OVC) over EIU (0-4, 0-1 OVC) since the 2011 season.

TSU took its first lead of the game with 7:31 to go in the fourth quarter when Demry Croft hit DeVon Johnson for a 49-yard touchdown pass for a 35-34 advantage.

After EIU responded with a touchdown just over a minute later, Earl Harrison capped a TSU drive with what proved to be the game-winning four-yard touchdown run with 3:06 left in the fourth.

On EIU’s final possession, Justin Culpepper blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt to preserve the victory.



  • TSU outgained EIU in total yards, 544-466
  • The Tigers finished with 349 yards passing and 195 yards rushing
  • The defense held EIU to 73 yards rushing, marking the second time the Tigers opponents did not amass 100 yards on the ground
  • TSU totaled 31 first downs, opposed to 20 by EIU
  • The defense held Eastern Illinois to 5-of-14 on third down conversions
  • The Big Blue recorded eight tackles for loss, including two sacks
  • TSU won the Time of Possession battle, 34:55-25:05
  • The Tigers finished 6-of-7 in Red Zone Scoring Chances
  • The defense had eight pass breakups on the day


  • Demry Croft started for the second consecutive game
  • Micheal Hughes played in five series throughout the game
  • Croft went 14-of-20 for 217 yards with two touchdowns and an interception
  • The junior transfer added 56 yards on eight carries
  • Hughes completed 13-of-21 for 114 yards
  • Treon Harris threw one pass, good for an 18 yard touchdown
  • It marked the first scoring pass by Harris since Sept. 17 of last year versus Florida A&M
  • Chris Rowland led the Tigers with eight receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown
  • The eight catches is a new career high
  • Rowland recorded the longest punt return of his career, going for 42 yards
  • The juniors tallied 124 all-purpose yards
  • DeVon Johnson added 72 yards on three receptions, one going for a 49 yard score
  • Harris made an impact as a receiver, hauling in three passes for 51 yards and a touchdown
  • The TSU quarterbacks targeted nine separate receivers
  • Te’kendrick Roberson led all runners with 73 yards on 15 carries
  • Roberson added 33 yards on four catches, giving him 106 total yards for the game
  • Earl Harrison and DeMarco Corbin each rushed for a touchdown
  • Harrison finished with 56 yards on eight rushes, while Corbin rushed eight times for 28 yards
  • Christion Abercrombie led the Tigers with eight tackles
  • Dajour Nesbeth and Vincent Sellers followed with seven
  • Nesbeth led with seven solo stops
  • Mekhi Brown and Justin Culpepper notched 2.0 tackles for loss
  • Brown and Jeremiah Caine recorded a sack
  • Dante’ Ferguson registered three quarter back hurries and recovered a fumble
  • Brown picked up his first forced fumble
  • Nesbeth was credited with four pass breakups
  • Antonio Zita scored 11 points, going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and 2-for-2 on extra points
  • The 11 points is tied for seventh all-time at TSU for points by a kicker in a single game


  • EIU took advantage of good field position, traveling 34 yards on 10 plays to take a 3-0 lead
  • The Panthers scored 20 seconds later after a fumble recovery on the kick return.
  • The Tigers surrendered their first touchdown of the season at 7:26 of the first quarter.
  • The Big Blue turned the ball over for the second time in the first quarter, leading to EIU’s second touchdown.
  • The two turnovers were the first two of the season by the Tigers and the first ones forced by EIU in four games.
  • The Tigers outgained the Panthers 105-102 in the first quarter.


  • The Tigers opened the second quarter with a 37 yard field goal by Antonio Zita.
  • The kick cut the Panthers lead to 17-3.
  • EIU needed less than two minutes to cross the goal line, taking a 24-3 lead on a 71 yard touchdown pass.
  • The Tigers put together its longest drive of the game, using 14 plays to move 53 yards.
  • TSU settled for a 36-yard field goal by Zita, making the score 24-6 with 6:13 remaining in the half.
  • Chris Rowland tried to spark the Tigers with a 43 yard punt return to the Panthers 32.
  • The Tigers fell victim to their third turnover of the half at the EIU 12, halting a potential scoring drive.
  • The two teams traded a pair of five play drives, giving the Panthers the ball at their own 24 with 30 seconds remaining.
  • On EIUs first play, Mekhi Brown came around the left side and knocked the ball out of the hands of the Panther quarterback.
  • Dante’ Ferguson came up with the ball giving the Tigers the ball at the EIU 18.
  • TSU struck on the first play as Treon Harris took a handoff from Demry Croft and sprinted to the right where he pulled up and tossed an 18 yard scoring pass to Chris Rowland.
  • Zita converted the extra point, allowing TSU to enter the locker room trailing 24-13.
  • The Tigers outgained the Panthers, 227-220 in the first half.
  • TSU had the ball for 17:43 of the first 30 minutes.


  • DeVon Johnson took the second half kickoff 51 yards to give the Tigers a short field, starting at the EIU 47.
  • DeMarco Corbin crashed through the line for a two yard touchdown run, making it a one possession game, 24-19.
  • The game continued to go back and forth as the Panthers needed just five plays to cross the goal line, increasing the lead to 31-19.
  • The Tigers followed by producing the longest touchdown drive of the game, needing 2:39 to produce a 30 yard scoring connection from Croft to Harris.
  • The Tigers continued to outgain EIU through three quarters, 378-349.


  • The Tiger defense held strong, forcing EIU to attempt a 48-yard field goal.
  • Panther kicker Nick Bruno split the uprights for a career long three-pointer, to create an eight point gap, 34-26, with 11:55 remaining in the contest.
  • Croft returned as quarterback of the drive and hit Steven Newbold for 13 yards, as well as Miles Cavitt for 17 yards, to move deep into EIU territory.
  • Zita came on and connected on his third field goal of the game, a 37 yarder, bringing the Tigers back within five.
  • After a defensive stop, Croft went over the top and found DeVon Johnson down the left sideline for a 49 yard strike.
  • The Tigers took their first lead of the game with 7:31 remaining.
  • On a 3rd and eight at their own 28, EIU connected on their second 70-plus yard touchdown pass, to regain the advantage.
  • Once again, the Tigers answered, traveling 65 yards on 10 plays as Earl Harrison finished off the drive with a four yard touchdown run.
  • TSU missed their third two-point conversion attempt to keep the score at 41-40 with 3:06 to go in regulation.
  • The Tigers secured the win on a blocked field goal attempt by Justin Culpepper.


  • Tennessee State was playing its first game since the Sept. 1 win over Bethune-Cookman in the John Merritt Classic to open the season. The last two games for TSU had been cancelled due to weather concerns.
  • TSU captains were Micheal Hughes, Demry Croft, Thomas Burton and LaQuarius Cook.
  • TSU won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
  • Tennessee State entered the game receiving votes in the STATS Top 25.
  • The Tigers are 18-26 in road games under Head Coach Rod Reed.
  • The Big Blue defeated EIU for the first time since 2011, a one point win in Charleston, 18-17.
  • TSU is 9-14 in the all-time series versus Eastern Illinois.
  • The Tigers have produced 500-plus yards in back-to-back games since the final two games of the 2014 season.
  • Antonio Zita has scored 21 points in his first two games as a Tiger.
  • Zita is a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals and 6-for-6 on extra points.
  • Saturday’s game streamed live on ESPN+.

The Tigers will return to Nashville for a non-conference tussle with SEC opponent, Vanderbilt. Kickoff is set for 3:00 p.m. at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 29.

(on being 1-0 in the OVC )
“It was great because we missed some games, so we had to come out and win. We have to win out.”

(on his touchdown pass)
“We practiced that all week and we felt like that would be open. In the game, it came wide open and Chris (Rowland) got into the end zone for us.”

(on contributing to the offense)
“Like I said in the spring, I feel like I’m an athlete. I feel like I’ll do anything to help the team. If I have to block, I’ll go block. The touchdown catch was big. It helped change momentum.”

(on making adjustments against Eastern Illinois)
“We just had to get good field position and calm down and play our game. We were a little nervous because we haven’t played in a couple weeks. We just had to get rid of all the nerves and play ball. Coach was calling the right calls, we just had to execute. So that is what we did in the second half. We just came out and executed.”

(on staying positive throughout the game)
“I can tell you, at some points of the game, I got a little down. But the fact that we kept pushing shows me just how good of a team we can actually be. We have a lot to work on, but I am just glad we had a chance to come back and get this victory”

(on coming back after surrendering a couple big plays for touchdowns)
“Big plays are going to happen. You just need to know how to overcome adversity. We just came together as a team and made something special.”

(on being used as a rusher and a receiver)
“Coming into the game, coach said the like to drop their linebackers back so be prepared to catch some balls in the flats. So I prepared myself all week to be ready to catch some balls.”

(on turnovers)
“We had not played for two whole weeks, we missed two whole games. We were kind of rusty and we needed to get into the groove of a real game, making real tackles and getting hit. I think we were ready in the second half.”