Nashville, Tenn. - Coming off a bye week, the Tennessee State University Tigers will head to Cookeville, Tenn. to face OVC opponent Tennessee Tech. The match-up is scheduled for Saturday (10/31) at 1:30 p.m. at Tucker Stadium during TTU's homecoming.
The game will be the first of the Tigers' defense of the Sgt. York trophy in which TSU has retained the last two years of the award's existence. The trophy goes to the winner of the quadrangular season football series between the four Ohio Valley Conference schools located in the state of Tennessee – Austin Peay State, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin.
The Golden Eagles have already defeated Austin Peay State, 31-23, and UT Martin, 35-28, in back-to-back weeks.
In July 2007, the award was announced by the Nashville Sports Council and the Ohio Valley Conference and is the only second traveling trophy that involves more than two teams in college sports. The other is the Commander in Chief’s Trophy which has been contested between Air Force, Army and Navy annually since 1972.
The Tigers hold the lead in the season series, 14-8, defeating the Golden Eagles at LP Field last season during TSU's 2008 Homecoming. The Tigers have won five in a row against TTU which partly includes six of nine meetings in Cookeville.
The Tigers (3-4, 2-1) are coming off a 9-6 gut wrenching conference loss to Murray State (10/17) at LP Field scoring the game's only touchdown in the final two minutes. With the loss and the bye week, the Tigers are tied for first in the OVC with Eastern Illinois (6-2, 4-1). The Tigers are one of two teams with a conference loss that retain their eligibility for the OVC title.
The Tigers' offense is averaging 265 total yards and 14.1 points per game. The attack has been up and down but has shown the most productivity behind quarterback Calvin McNairl. In the midst of the quarterback shuffle due to an early injury to Dominic Grooms, McNairl leads TSU in rushing, passing, and all-purpose yardage. McNairl averages 5.9 yards per carry and 77.2 rushing yards per game. In the air, he has completed 40-of-85 (47.1%) passes with three touchdowns and five interceptions. McNairl in six games played, has accounted for a team leading 24 points managing 149 all-purpose yards per game.
The offensive line anchored by Dumaka Atkins, Duvall Young, and Alex Davis have defended well against the pass rush only giving up five sacks on the season in seven games. Running back Preston Brown has also scored 24 points on the year averaging 3.6 yards per carry.
For the defense, TSU is ranked second in the league against the run and fourth in total defense holding opponents to 18 points per contest. The Tigers' defense have rallied around the play of defensive backs Eugene Clifford, Anthony Levine, linebackers John Jones, Jr., Rico Council and defensive lineman Kellen Woodard.
Clifford has posted 39 tackles and one interception returning two turnovers for scores. Levine leads the Tigers in interceptions with two, adding 31 tackles, while Jones leads the team in the category with 41. Woodard's five sacks on the year ranks him in the OVC's top ten while Council led the Tigers in their last outing with 11 tackles giving him 39 on the year.
Tennessee Tech (4-3, 3-2) is ranked fourth in the OVC standings and enters the game after defeating Southeast Missouri State in conference play, 28-16, on Oct. 24. The Golden Eagles have won three of their last four games and are undefeated at home on the season.
TTU's offense averages 285 yards and 25 points per game and is led by Dontey Gay's team leading five touchdowns this season, including two scores last week against SEMO. Gay is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 56 yards per game. Quarterback Lee Sweeney has completed 105-of-183 passes with nine touchdowns and six interceptions, averaging 182.6 passing yards per game.
On defense, the Golden Eagles are giving up 23 points per game and are led by OVC Preseason defensive lineman selection Charlie Seivers and defensive back Dustin Dillehay.
Dillehay has a team leading 50 tackles and three interceptions and is fourth in the OVC in picks. Seivers has posted 15 tackles in seven games played.
Next up, the Tigers will host OVC opponent UT Martin for Homecoming 2009 at LP Field. The game is scheduled for Nov. 7 at 5 p.m.