By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — For the first time in eight years the Tennessee State Tigers have won four straight Ohio Valley Conference games, even if one didn’t count in the league standings. Their 27-21 homecoming victory over Murray State Saturday at Nissan Stadium kept them tied with Southeast Missouri State at 3-1 in the OVC (5-3 overall). And while they nearly blew a three-touchdown lead, the Tigers are now in position to claim the OVC title if they win their next two games. The first is Saturday on the road against UT Martin, who lead the OVC at 4-0. Then their final home game is a rematch with Austin Peay Nov. 13.

QB Geremy Hickbottom rushed for three touchdowns and passed for a fourth in leading the Tigers’ offense. Hickbottom now has seven rushing touchdowns. He had a 65-yarder among his three scores, and he got the game-winner from seven years out with 1:41 remaining. Running back Devon Starling added 77 yards on 14 carries.

Defensively a key play was James Reese IV’s interception in the third quarter to set up Hickbottom’s long touchdown run. Reese is the son of former Tigers’ running back James Reese III, a member of TSU teams from 1988-90. The win also came before some 200 prospects attending the game along with a crowd of 8,627 fans, their largest of the season.

The only negatives were yet another blocked extra point attempt by Antonio Zita and 10 penalties for 99 yards against the Tigers. TSU is the OVC’s most penalized team, something that may hurt them down the line. But two more victories will give them both the OVC title and the Alvin York trophy. Their final game is on the road against SEC squad Mississippi State Nov. 20.