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Game 7: Tennessee State (5-1) vs. Vanderbilt (3-4)
Date: Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016
Location: Nashville, Tenn.
Venue: Vanderbilt Stadium
Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT
Audio: 102.1 FM The Light
The Game: Despite being separated by three miles, this is only the second meeting between Tennessee State and Vanderbilt. The Commodores claimed the only contest between the two universities, 38-9 in 2006. This will mark just the third time TSU has faced an FBS program. The Tigers traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2011 to face Air Force, which went in favor of the Falcons, 63-24.
Last Meeting: Tennessee State used a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie interception of Commodore quarterback Chris Nickson to set up an Eric Benson 25-yard field goal. Rodgers-Cromartie picked off the pass at the Commodore 39 and returned it 27 yards to the Commodores 12 yard line to set up the score, as TSU trailed Vanderbilt 10-3 at halftime. The Commodores forced three turnovers and turned all three miscues into touchdowns within a span of 2:15 late in the third quarter and into the fourth to take a commanding 31-3 lead. TSU's lone touchdown came on a 15 yard touchdown pass from Antonio Heffner to Chris Johnson. Heffner finished 10-of-21 for 159 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Vanderbilt outgained TSU 308-252 in a defensive struggle.
Head Coach: Rod Reed is in his seventh season at the helm of the Tigers. During his time at TSU, he has compiled a 41-35 record, including a 33-20 mark since 2012. This is the first meeting as a head coach versus Vanderbilt. Reed served as the linebacker coach for the Tigers in the 2006 contest against the Commodores.
Tennessee State: Tennessee State (5-1, 2-1) is coming off a 35-28 win over Eastern Kentucky, which helped propel them to No. 25 into all three FCS polls. TSU jumped out to a 35-3 lead heading into halftime. The Big Blue defense forced five EKU turnovers for the difference in the game. An interception by linebacker Chris Collins with seconds left in the game proved to be the nail in the coffin. Cornerback Ezra Robinson earned OVC Defensive Player of the Week with two interceptions against EKU, including a 93-yard pick returned for a touchdown early in the second quarter. The senior’s second swipe came with 10 minutes remaining in the game as he stepped in front of a pass in the flat at the TSU 8-yard line. The Tigers rank second nationally with 12 interceptions on the year. Robinson collected two pass breakups and is ranked fourth in FCS with 1.8 passes defended per game. The Tigers rank fourth nationally in turnover margin (+1.67/game). TSU has scored 30-plus points in six consecutive games to open the season for the first time since 1984. The '84 squad scored over 30 points during the first nine games and in 10 of 11 on the season; Scored a 24-15 victory over Louisville in lone game under 30 points. TSU currently ranks 16th in the country in scoring with 36.3 points per game. Ronald Butler picked up a pair of rushing touchdowns. The senior quarterback registered the longest run of his career on a 61-yard scoring jaunt to put TSU up 28-0. Steven Newbold caught one pass for 30 yards, increasing his yards per reception to 24.4; good for second in FCS play, first in the OVC. Patrick Smith caught four passes versus EKU increasing his team high receptions to 31. Smith has 16 touchdowns in his career over 16 games. Chris Collins leads the defense with 47 tackles, 36 solos; second with 7.5 tackles for loss. Ebenezer 'Ebo' Ogundeko missed his second consecutive game on Saturday evening. Ogundeko still leads the team with 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks and ranks third with 40 tackles.
Scouting Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt improved to 3-4 as they spoiled Georgia’s Homecoming with a 17- 16 win in Athens. The victory was the first for the Commodores in UGA since 2006. Vanderbilt led 7-6 at halftime before falling behind 16-10 early in the fourth quarter. Vandy fought back with an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a Khari Blasingame two-yard touchdown run. Georgia outgained the Commodores 421-171, but the defense held the Bulldogs high powered running attack to just 75 yards rushing. Ralph Webb has rushed for 730 yards and six touchdowns and is averaging 104.3 yards/game for Vanderbilt. Defensively, Zach Cunningham has 81 tackles including 13.0 tackles-for-loss and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week..
Radio: 102.1 FM The Light will carry the game live with Greg Pogue (play-by-play), Albert Dawson (analyst) and Gary Dawson (sideline). Pregame will begin at 6:00 p.m. CT.