By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee State Tigers did a lot of good things in their opening game on the road against 13th ranked Eastern Washington, but their late rally fell just short in a 36-29 loss Saturday. But there are many positive things that Eddie George’s Tigers can take from this one into their next contest. These include an offense that scored 29 points and brought them back from 10-point deficit. TSU had the game tied at 29 late, before Eastern Washington got the game winning score with 2:39 remnaining.
A huge plus was the all-round brilliance of running back Devon Starling. He had 25 carries for 207 yards and included in his many big runs was a spectacular 43-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. That was also the Tigers’ best quarter as they scored 19 points and took 19-15 lead. New QB Draylen Ellis also had a strong game, completing 17 of 27 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns. His only negatives were two interceptions, as the Tigers had three turnovers. Wide receiver Zack Dobson had five receptions for 132 yards and he opened the scoring with a 67-yard touchdown catch.
But the Tigers’ defense had its problems, most notably in the secondary. They surrendered 348 passing yards and five touchdowns, figures that definitely need to improve. The defense did cause two turnovers, and held Eastern Washington to 126 yards on the ground. Penalties, a frequent trouble area for the Tigers in past years, were once more a problem as the Tigers had 12 for 95 yards. Still, as an overall effort for the first game against a ranked team on the road, there were far more good things than bad, despite the final score.
The Tigers now head to Memphis for the annual Southern Heritage Classic Saturday against Jackson State. It will be the final time these teams meet in this event.