Tennessee State capitalizes on mistakes and breaks for 41-14 win

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A pass play with six minutes to play in the game was typical of Tennessee Tech's luck Saturday afternoon as guests in Tennessee State's Homecoming game.

With the host Tigers leading 28-7, TSU quarterback Dominic Grooms picked up a low, bouncing snap, fired a pass through the arms of leaping linebacker Charlie Seivers, and the ball went through all six arms of three Golden Eagle players in the end zone into the hands of Tiger receiver Chris Johnson for a touchdown.

Tennessee State (7-2/4-1 OVC) took advantage of some Tech mistakes and a lot of huge breaks to claim a 41-14 Ohio Valley Conference victory in front of 24,361 fans at LP Field. The win clinched the Sgt. York Trophy for the Tigers for the second consecutive year. Tech (3-7/1-5 OVC) now prepares to host Jacksonville State next week for Homecoming in Tucker Stadium.

Tennessee State didn't suffer a turnover in the contest, and scored touchdowns following two of Tech's three turnovers.

"Tennessee State played solid. They didn't make mistakes, they had no turnovers and not many penalties, and they took care of the ball," said TTU head coach Watson Brown.

"It was the little things that hurt us. We played better than it looks, but we just made critical mistakes. We had them stopped all four times in the second half, and just made a mistake in a critical situation.

"We had the ball four times in the second half, and we stopped ourselves the first three times with mistakes," Brown continued.

Tech tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter, but the Tigers scored the next 34 points to build a 41-7 lead. Josh Lowery hit Tim Benford for a 21-yard touchdown late in the game to finish the scoring. It was the ninth TD catch of the year for the freshman from Chattanooga.

With the catch, Benford tied the school record for most receptions in a season (55), and pulled to within one of the school mark for most TD catches in a season.

Javarris Williams rushed for 125 yards and two touchdowns to pace the TSU attack, which scored four times on the ground. Quarterback Dominic Grooms was 15-for-19 for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

For Tech, freshman Dontey Gay was the leading rusher with 49 yards on 11 carries, while freshman Tremaine Hudson had 47 yards on five carries. Hudson finished the game with 145 all-purpose yards. Cedric Wilkerson scored Tech's first score, a one-yard run in the first quarter.

Lee Sweeney was 9-for-19 for 94 yards, while Lowery went 1-for-2 for 21 yards.

On defense, Corey Reed topped Tech with 12 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. It was his ninth career game with double figure tackles.

Maurice Smith also had double figures in tackles with 10, his 13th career double-digit effort.

PREGAME NOTES

It's Homecoming for Tennessee State in LP Field. The last time Tech played at the Tigers' Homecoming drew an OVC record 41,000 fans.

Tennessee State has won four straight over the Golden Eagles, and owns a 13-8 advantage in the all-time series. The Tigers won last year's game, 45-28, in Cookeville.

The Golden Eagles are without the services of center Malcolm Jones, moving junior Peter Taylor back into the starting role with Scott Eller to back him up.

Tech is 3-6 overall and 1-4 in the OVC. Tennessee State is 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the league.

Tech won the coin toss and elected to defer, allowing TSU to receive the kickoff.

FIRST QUARTER NOTES

The Golden Eagle defense came out strong and held TSU to three-and-out, but returner Tim Benford fumbled the punt and TSU recovered. The Togers took advantage of the turnover and drove in for a touchdown two minutes later for a 7-0 lead. It turned out to be a five-play, 24-yard scoring drive after the turnover.

The Golden Eagle offense got things rolling late in the first quarter and cobbled together a 17-play, 70-yard scoring drive that chewed up 5:45 from the clock and tied the game at 7-7 jusst second before the end of the opening period. Cedric Wilkerson bulled into the end zone from the one-yard line for the score and Justin Kraemer converted the PAT to knot the score.

The drive was Tech's longest drive of the year in number of plays, and was the team's 12th scoring drive of 70 yards or more this season.

SECOND QUARTER NOTES

The Golden Eagle defense appeared to make a sensational goal line stand, halting the TSU ball carrier on fourth-and-goal from the one. However, when quarterback Dominic Grooms was stopped short of the goal line, he reached the ball close to the line and it was ruled a TD, putting the Tigers on top, 14-7, four minutes into the second quarter.

Antonio Robinson made a diving grab of a pass from Lee Sweeney to get Tech's next possession started with a 25-yard gain, and the offense marched all the way to the TSU nine, but stalled. Justin Kramer attempted a 29-yard field goal but missed, leaving the score at 14-7.

The Tigers answered with a drive of their own that took nearly five minutes. TSU went 80 yards in 11 plays and 4:53, with Williams going the final five yards for the touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 2:57 to play in the half.

THIRD QUARTER NOTES

A pass interference call against the Golden Eagles aided TSU on the Tigers' first possession of the second half. On third-and-25, Grooms pass was well overthrown, but the receiver tripped and the penalty was called. TSU used that impetus to drive 86 yards in 14 plays, using 7:49, to make it 28-7 on a nine-yard pass from Grooms to JaJuan Spillman.

FOURTH QUARTER NOTES

Tennessee State made it 35-7 with 6:11 remaining on a six-yard TD pass from Grooms to Chris Johnson (see above). The score capped an eight-play, 47-yard scoring drive that lasted 3:51.

Junior Josh Lowery took over at quarterback in the final six minutes for the Golden Eagles. It was his first action since suffering a rib injury at Murray State (Oct. 11).

Anthony Levine intercepted a Tech pass and returned it about 25 yards, then flipped a lateral to Eugene Clifford, who took it another 25 yards to the Tech 22. TSU was able to push that turnover into the end zone on a 12-yard run by Preston Brown with 2:18 remaining to make it 42-7.

A 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration after the scored forced TSU to kickoff from its own 15-yard line. The Golden Eagles started their final possession at the 43 following the kickoff return, and Tech moved 57 yards in just five plays for a touchdown. Lowery fired a strike to Tim Benford for a 21-yard score to make it 41-14.

The TD catch by Benford gave him 55 receptions for the season, tying the TTU school record for most catches in a season. It was his ninth TD catch of the year, putting him one short of the school record for most touchdown receptions.