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Unbeaten TSU gets 'married' to idea of winning OVC title
‘When you get married, you get that ring. That’s what we want — that OVC championship ring.’ Tennessee State’s Trabis Ward says.
TSU (5-0, 1-0 OVC) vs. EASTERN KENTUCKY (4-1, 2-0)
• Where: Hale Stadium
• When: 1 p.m.
• Radio: 102.1-FM
• Storylines: TSU is one of 11 Football Championship Subdivision teams that is still unbeaten and one of six with a 5-0 record. Eastern Kentucky senior
Matt Denham, a transfer from Kentucky, was one of two running backs in the FCS last season to rush for 200 yards four times. He picked up a career-high 226 yards and scored two TDs in EKU’s 33-22 win over the Tigers. TSU’s defense is ranked second in the OVC in rushing defense (112.4 yards). EKU leads the OVC and is 10th in the FCS (89.6 yards) in rushing defense.
Junior running back Trabis Ward popped the question on his Tennessee State teammates in the summer, and they answered with a unanimous yes.
Adding a matrimony twist was Ward’s way of getting the Tigers to buy into setting their sights on winning the OVC championship.
“Like everybody says around here, ‘We’re trying to get married to the OVC,’ ” Ward said. “When you get married, you get that ring. That’s what we want — that OVC championship ring.”
Everybody is saying it because Ward got it started.
“He made that up, and it really caught on,” senior receiver Travis James said. “It’s what everybody wants.”
The No. 24 Tigers (5-0, 1-0 OVC) last won the conference title in 1999. They can take a big step toward their goal at 1 p.m. today when No. 16 Eastern Kentucky (4-1, 2-0) visits Hale Stadium.
“Just as they’ve been since we came into the league, Eastern Kentucky is one of the premier teams,” TSU coach Rod Reed said. “We’re off to a good start. We haven’t been 5-0 in a long time (2001). But now we’ve got to find a way to raise our level of play.”
TSU has won nine of its past 11 games. One of the two losses came at EKU last season when the Colonels pulled away late in the third quarter on the way to a 33-22 victory.
EKU finished in a three-way tie for the OVC championship with Tennessee Tech and Jacksonville State. It marked the 21st time the Colonels have won or shared the conference title. Former league member Middle Tennessee State is second with 11.
TSU’s strong start this season got the attention of EKU coach Dean Hood before he started preparing for the Tigers this week.
“I’ve been asking why TSU wasn’t ranked in the national poll before now,” Hood said. “They should have been ranked a couple of weeks ago.”
TSU leads the OVC in total defense (317.2 yards) and scoring defense (13.4 points). The Tigers are third in rushing offense (177.2 yards) and fifth in total offense (405.4 yards).
Ward is third in the OVC in rushing (105.6 yards) and redshirt freshman Telvin Hooks is seventh (74.8 yards).
EKU’s Matt Denham leads the OVC (129.2 yards) in rushing. He has gained 100 yards in three of the past four games.
“We’ve been playing good on defense and we’re going to have to have another good game this week because this is a ranked team,” said sophomore middle linebacker Nick Thrasher, who leads TSU with 43 tackles.
Parking issue: TSU athletics director Teresa Phillips apologized to fans who experienced parking problems for the Tigers’ homecoming game last Saturday at LP Field.
Phillips said she and other school officials met with Metro Police representatives to come up with a plan to avoid the problem in the future.
TSU does not play any more games this season at LP Field.
By Mike Organ, The Tennessean