Sunday, October 16, 2016
Tennessee State Tigers Bounce Back with 35-28 Win over EKU in Homecoming Game
NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Chris Collins stepped in front of a Bennie Coyne pass at the TSU nine yard line with 11 seconds on the clock to secure a 35-28 victory over Eastern Kentucky. The interception was the fourth of the game for the Tigers and the fifth turnover against the Colonels on Saturday night at Nissan Stadium in front of 21,053 fans.
Tennessee State (5-1, 2-1) sprinted out to a 35-3 halftime lead and held on for the Ohio Valley Conference win. Redshirt senior Ezra Robinson registered two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown to lead the TSU defense.
Ronald Butler sparked the offense rushing for a pair of touchdowns while gaining 81 yards on the ground and 181 through the air as he completed 13-of-24.
The quarterback received help from a pair of freshman as redshirt Andrew Knox and first year Sabree Curtis, Jr., also added touchdowns.
TSU forced three turnovers on the first three EKU drives and turned them into a 21-0 lead. Larry Wilhoite recorded the first turnover as he picked off Coyne deep in TSU territory and returned it 45 yards to the EKU 32.
The Tigers needed just four plays to get into the end zone as Butler called his own number and scampered 20 yards to give TSU an early 7-0 lead.
The Colonels were driving again when Henry Enyenhi fumbled at the TSU 35 allowing Antonio Justice to fall on the ball at the 31. TSU went to the ground game running the ball seven consecutive times to open the series. Erick Evans was called upon for the first five carries for 29 yards. Curtis carried on the next two plays for five yards.
The only pass on the drive followed as Steven Newbold out leaped his defender hauling in a 30 yard reception. The play took the Tigers down to the two yard line. Two plays later, Knox barreled in for the first touchdown of his career, increasing the lead to 14-0.
Robinson completed the trifecta as he jumped an outside route at the Tiger seven yard line and raced down the right sideline, avoiding one defender, before entering the end zone 93 yards later. The second longest interception in TSU history increased the score to 21-0.
After forcing the Colonels to punt, the Tigers went back on the attack with a nine yard run by Evans and a 21 yard pass play from Butler to tight end Mahlon Medley. Two plays later, Butler came up with his longest run of his career as he evaded and out ran the defenders down the right sideline for a 61 yard touchdown run.
After an EKU field goal made the score 28-3, the Tigers closed out the half with a scoring drive that lasted just under five minutes. Curtis outran the EKU defense to the left sideline and dove for the end zone, breaking the plain of the end zone with no time remaining on the clock.
The second half proved to be all EKU, as they outscored TSU 25-0. The Colonels scored on the first possession of the second half cutting the score to 35-10.
EKU continued their comeback with a field goal and an interception of Butler late in the third. The fourth quarter opened with the Colonels scoring on the first play. Eastern Kentucky made good on the two-point conversion bringing the deficit to within two touchdowns.
With the Colonels threatening in the red zone, Robinson picked off his second pass on a tip drill, giving the Tigers the ball back with 10 minutes to play. EKU would keep the pressure on scoring another touchdown to pull within seven with 5:41 to play.
EKU would get the ball back with one minute remaining and moved 60 yards to the Tigers 17. Coney quickly surveyed the field before dumping to the middle of the field. Collins chose the perfect time to break on the ball as he ended the Colonels chances of a spectacular comeback.
Collins finished the game leading all players with 11 tackles, nine solos and two tackles for loss. Collins also forced a fumble and registered a quarterback hurry.
Next up for TSU is a road game at SEC opponent Vanderbilt on Saturday, Oct. 22, in a game that will air on ESPNU.
NOTES: Kickoff was a 6:07 p.m. … Official attendance was 21,053… TSU’s captains were Patrick Smith, Chris Collins, Lane Clark, Ronald Butler and Thomas Burton… Eastern Kentucky won the coin toss and chose to defer… Weather at kickoff was 79 degrees and partly sunny… Redshirt-freshman fullback Andrew Knox recorded his first career touchdown on a three-yard rush in the first quarter... Freshman safety Larry Wilhoite picked up his first career interception in the first quarter… Ezra Robinson’s 93-yard interception return for a touchdown was tied for the second-longest in TSU history. The school record was a 97-yard interception return by Dave Coleman in 1997. It was Robinson’s fifth career interception… TSU held a 35-3 halftime lead on Saturday. It was the Tigers’ biggest halftime lead over an OVC opponent since Oct. 8, 2011 when TSU had a 41-0 halftime lead over Southeast Missouri… TSU’s record in the all-time series with EKU is now 23-6.
TSU Cornerback Ezra Robinson
“I felt like the first half was great for us. I felt in the second half we came out kind of slow, but all in all, we got the ‘W’ and we played a pretty good game overall.”
- On how the defense played
“On the first interception, I was baiting him to throw the out route and he threw the out route straight to me. I just did what I could to make a play on it. On the second interception, it was the same route. He threw the out route again and the receiver tipped it and I took advantage of my opportunity.”
- On his two interceptions
“I feel like every time I touch the ball I’m going to score to be honest with you. An interception to me is a touchdown when I touch it.”
- On scoring on his first interception
TSU Safety Larry Wilhoite
“Coaches have been talking about all week about how every game we’ve played this year we haven’t come out that fast. Today we had to come out and set the tempo for the rest of the game. We just executed what they’ve been preaching all week.”
- On setting the tone with an early interception
“We were in cover two, so I had the overtop (route). The corners and nickels had their guys covered up, and it was an easy play for me. They did a great job, so that made it easy for me.”
- On his interception
TSU Linebacker Antonio Justice, Jr.
“I think we came out fast in the first half and did everything we could. We didn’t give up any big plays. I think in the second half we came out lax, but we picked it up at the end. We made a couple of big plays.”
- On how the defense played
“It means a lot. Our confidence is back up. We needed this win big time. To be 2-1 in the conference, that’s all we can ask for at this point.”
- On responding from last week’s loss to Eastern Illinois
TSU Linebacker Chris Collins
“We’ve been pressing it all week. In practice, we’ve been focused on starting fast from the stretch line also with starting off practice with high-tempo things. Defense versus offense, ones versus ones, so that helped out a lot.”
- On starting fast
“I prayed about it, so when it happened, I just broke on the ball. I thought about the timing of the quarterback. He had to dump it down, so I thought about the timing and broke on it.”
- On his interception to seal the win
TSU Tight End Mahlon Medley
“We game planned for this all week. They did what we expected them to do. They made some adjustments and it kind of messed up our game plan, but we got it going again.”
- On the play of the offense
“The whole season, we haven’t started fast. We’ve been talking about it all week after that loss to EIU. We just harped on it all week, and we executed tonight.”
- On starting fast
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