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TSU young Tigers starting to pounce
Tennessee State needed a boost of confidence.
After nine straight Ohio Valley Conference games, the Tigers just kept coming up short. With second-year coach Rod Reed at the helm, things just kept looking grim for TSU, who had entered last week’s game with Southeast Missouri with just one win – their season-opener in a classic game against Southern.
Four more losses later and the Tigers were hungry.
This past Saturday, the Tigers got to feast.
State piled up 55 points on Southeast Missouri, shutting down one of the better offenses in the OVC. Redhawk quarterback Matt Scheible, one of the leading quarterbacks in the conference, was held to 35 yards on 5-of-13 passing. The Redhawks were held to 89 rushing yards as they lost one of their top rushers – Levi Terrell, who rushed for 154 yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 24.
The win came at just the right time.
“It was needed,” Reed said. “Our kids have been coming in week after week and this is an extremely young team. You look at our roster. I want to say over 60 kids are freshmen or sophomores. We don’t have a lot of seniors. We don’t have a lot of juniors. When you keep preaching to young kids, they have to have some kind of success in order to buy into what you’re talking about. That was a big win for us, confidence-wise. We needed that.”
Now the Tigers set their sight on the Football Championship Subdivision No. 19 Golden Eagles on Saturday at Tucker Stadium.
“We were really excited to get our first OVC win as a staff,” said Reed. “The kids were excited about that also, but we realize that it’s back to business. We told them to enjoy Saturday night, because Sunday we had to go back to work. … Coming off of that one, you’re playing the No. 19 team in the country. It doesn’t get any easier in this conference. We understand where we are and we’re still trying to find our way. We have a lot of young kids that we’re playing, but we’re going to be competitive from here on out because our kids are going to play to win.”
With a lot of young kids on their roster, including redshirt freshman quarterback Mike German, who has been stealing the show as of late, the Tigers are following a similar path Tech coach Watson Brown did to build up his program.
“It’s all in the same blueprint,” Reed said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen and redshirt freshmen playing right now. We probably played between 22 and 23 freshmen and redshirts in the last four or five weeks. That was by design. We know that some of these kids are talented. The only way they’re going to learn is by trial-by-fire. We only have eight seniors on our football team. We had a lot of attrition from that 2007 class. But we’re still trying to find our way. We did a lot of things right on Saturday, but we still did a lot of things wrong. We’ve got to correct a lot of things before we go play a good football team like Tennessee Tech.”
German has been phenomenal in his first three starts with the Tigers, throwing for 883 yards and six touchdowns, and completing 57 of his 102 passes. He threw for 172 yards and a touchdown against Air Force, 304 yards and two touchdowns against Austin Peay, then 264 yards and two touchdowns against SEMO last week.
“It hasn’t all been Mike German,” Reed said. “He’s been a big part of it. The offensive line has been part of that. The running backs have been part of that. Trabis Ward is healthy. Dante’ Ward is healthy. When you have two healthy running backs and the offensive line is doing well, people have to stack the box to stop the run. When they do, (German) has to be saavy to pick up on it and find the receivers, and we’re going to face a really good Tech team that’s pretty stout on defense.”
And German hasn’t thrown an interception yet.
“Hear me knocking on wood?” Reed joked.
Tech’s pass defense leads the conference in interceptions with eight and has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns with six.
“We have to protect the football,” Reed said. “We’ve had that mindset all year, and we’ve done a good job of taking the football away as well as protecting the ball. We just have to keep doing that. I look at the schedule on my wall – we have Tech this week, then Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois, UT Martin and Jacksonville State. C’mon, man. We have to do a good job of protecting the ball. We are totally focused on Tennessee Tech right now and we know they’re going to be focused on us. Coach Brown always has those guys ready to play us.”
TSU took advantage of opportunities against the Redhawks, but the Tigers know they’ll be challenged once again.
“You get a win like that and a lot of things have to go right for you,"Reed said. “SEMO did some things that was uncharacteristic for them, like turning the ball over. We took advantage of that and our offense was clicking early. We had the opportunity to take a big lead, which we had to guard against because we’ve been in that position before and lost a few games the last couple of years with big leads. Our kids persevered and did a great job of finishing.”
by Thomas Corhern, Herald Citizen