By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee State University Tigers still have major goals they want to accomplish during this spring season, among them regaining the York Trophy, and having a winning year after a tough start. They’re hoping that the good things they saw during Sunday’s 26-24 victory over UT Martin at Hale Stadium continue during this Sunday’s road game against Tennessee Tech. They got several excellent individual offensive and defensive efforts, and averted a last second collapse by stopping a two-point conversion attempt in the final minute that would have forced overtime.
Offensively, they again got a big game from Devon Startling. The redshirt freshman running back is becoming the talk of the OVC as he compiled a second consecutive 100-yard plus contest, gaining 134 yards and scoring a touchdown on 26 carries. His 65 yard touchdown run was among the game’s highlights. He was a big reason the Tigers gained 204 yards rushing. QB Deveon Bryant and fellow running back Sabree Curtis also added touchdown runs of 32 and six yards respectively. Bryant divided time at the QB position with Isaiah Green. Bryant completed two of five passes, Green seven of 11. Kicker Antonio Zita also continued his campaign for All-OVC honors with another 51-yard field goal, plus a second from 33 yards. His kicking helped the Tigers build leads of 17-7, 23-7 and 26-7 before the Skyhawks began their second half comeback.
Emmanuel Baez was the defensive standout with two sacks plus a forced fumble. The Tigers’ defense had three sacks, six tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries, while the defensive backfield added three interceptions. TSU needed all those plays because the Skyhawks’ John Bachus nearly led a valiant second half comeback. UT Martin scored 17 points, and it took a great play by James Green, who batted down Bachus’ last passing attempt, to prevent the Skyhawks from tying the game. Bachus completed 27 of 47 passes for 306 yards.
Along with the improved defensive effort, the Tigers reduced their penalties, getting only three for 30 yards. Now at 2-3, the Tigers are 1-1 in the battle for the Sgt. York trophy. A win against Tennessee Tech not only would even the record and keep their hopes for a winning season alive, it would bring the trophy back to TSU outright for the first time in eight years.