RICHMOND, Ky. – On Saturday, the Tennessee State football team lost its second consecutive game at Eastern Kentucky, 44-0.
The contest was the second-most lopsided loss in school history, behind a 49-0 defeat in 2005 to EKU. The Tigers were also kept off of the scoreboard for the first time since Oct. 16, 2010 against Jacksonville State.
TSU (7-3, 4-2 OVC) had season lows in passing (101) and total yards (172), turned the ball over four times and committed 11 penalties for 109 yards.
Tim Broughton, who entered the game as the OVC’s leading rusher, was held to 38 yards on 17 carries for a 2.2 average.
The Tigers’ offense was only able to pick one first down on its opening series, but Daniel Fitzpatrick gave the offense the ball back by picking off Jared McClain’s second pass of the game at the TSU 27-yard line. The junior’s FCS-leading sixth interception of the year ended the Colonels’ drive, but Big Blue was unable to gain any ground, punting four plays later.
With Fitzpatrick’s big play, TSU extended its impressive takeaway streak. The Tigers have now forced at least one turnover in 23 straight contests and Tennessee State leads the nation with 16 interceptions.
TSU gained a total of 10 yards on its first 10 plays and had to punt from its own end zone with 8:45 left in the first quarter. Leon Holderhead got the punt off, but EKU’s Stanley Absanon returned the kick all the way to the seven-yard line. A holding penalty on the goal line and a false start couldn’t help the Tigers as McClain found Devin Borders for a 16-yard touchdown to go up ,7-0.
TSU fumbled on its next possession as Ronald Butler was unable to hand the ball to Broughton, but Wilson Robinson got the Tigers’ second pick of the day on EKU’s very next play. The flip-flop in possessions put TSU near its own end zone, again, this time at its own eight.
Three plays later, Butler hit Weldon Garlington with a pass, but the junior coughed up the ball. EKU’s Paul Ritter picked it up and ran it in for a touchdown. Within the game’s first 11 minutes, the teams each had two turnovers and EKU led by two touchdowns.
The Colonels (6-3, 4-1 OVC) added another touchdown one minute into the second quarter as McClain found Borders for their second scoring connection of the game. This pitch and catch occurred in the corner of the end zone from 26 yards out.
Later in the half, the Colonels marched 64 yards down the field on 13 plays for a touchdown. McClain picked up his third touchdown of the half when he lobbed the ball to Ike Ariguzo off of a play-action from one-yard away. The ensuing point-after-touchdown was no good, but EKU still led, 27-0.
The Tigers turned the ball over for the third time as tight end A.C. Leonard fumbled near the EKU sideline with under two minutes to go in the half. The Colonels recovered and added one more touchdown right before halftime to take a 34-point lead into the locker room.
EKU’s 34 points were the most that TSU has given up in any half of football since Sept. 17, 2011 when Murray State scored 44 in the first 30 minutes.
Tennessee State had 52 yards of total offense in the first half and 26 of those came on the ground on 16 attempts for a 1.6 average.
The Colonels received the ball to begin the second half and proceeded to go on a 12-play, 63-yard drive that ended with yet another touchdown. Third-string running back Jared Sanders rushed the ball in from three yards away to put EKU up, 41-0, early in the third period.
Tennessee State had its best chance to score on its next series as the Tigers got the ball all the way to the EKU 10. However, the drive stalled and a failed pass from Butler to Chris Sanders-McCollum on fourth down gave the Colonels the ball back.
The Tigers fumbled for the fourth time on their own seven-yard line to begin the fourth quarter and the Colonels added a 25-yard field goal to make the score, 44-0, with 13:36 left in the game.
The kick proved to be the last score of the day, as the Tigers never made into EKU territory for the rest of the contest.
The Tigers will try to right the ship when they host Austin Peay on Nov. 9 in Hale Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. for this year’s lone game in The Hole.