Tennessee State got back into the win column with a 35-7 victory over Jackson State in the 25th annual Southern Heritage Classic at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. It was the Big Blue’s third straight victory against Jackson State. The win came on the heels of a 27-21 loss to Alabama State that knocked the defending Black College National Champions out of the top spot in the HBCU rankings.
Tennessee State (2-1) was dominant on both sides of the ball and sprinted to a 35-0 halftime lead while rolling up 189 total yards. The Big Blue scored on four consecutive possessions, leaving little doubt as to the game’s outcome. The Big Blue’s defense limited Jackson State to just 21 total yards in the first two periods and yielded a miniscule 0.7 yards per play and one first down.
“What I was most proud of was that we got off to a fast start,” Tennessee State coach Rod Reed said. “We came out of the gates slow against Alabama State last week, and it really hurt us. We started fast this week, and you saw the difference. We needed to get back on track.”
Tennessee State finished the contest with 324 total yards, while giving up just 138. Jackson State (2-1) only managed eight first downs.
A big part of Tennessee State’s success on offense resulted from its ability to run the ball, which led to a balanced attack. The Big Blue had 137 yards rushing and 187 passing.
“Without a question a huge part of our offense is our ability to run the ball,’’ Reed said. “When you’re able to stay balance and run the football effectively, good things happen for you in the passing game.’’
Backup sophomore quarterback Ronald Butler, who entered the game in the second quarter after starter Mike German was injured early in the second period, completed 10 of 18 attempts for 125 yards and a touchdown. German was 4-for-9 for 62 yards.
Other Key Games:
Bethune-Cookman 36, Grambling State 23 – The Wildcats scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes to register their first victory against the G-Men in 60 years. Grambling (0-3) grabbed a 23-22 lead with 3:57 left in the fourth quarter when Stephen Johnson tossed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Leake. The Wildcats (2-0), No. 1 in the Black College rankings, regained the lead on Danny Dillard’s five-yard touchdown run at the 6:12 mark of the fourth period. Drexler Dixon added another touchdown on a three-yard run for the final margin.
The Wildcats wore down Grambling with a relentless running game that produced 231 yards and enabled them to control the ball for more than 33 minutes of the contest. They had the ball for 9 minutes, 15 seconds of the fourth quarter. Four Wildcats runners rushed for at least 40 yards. Anthony Jordan led all ballcarriers with 73 yards; Dillard had 55, Michael D. Jones 49, and quarterback Quentin Williams had 40. Williams also threw for 165 yards.
North Carolina A&T 17, Elon 12 – The Aggies picked up a road victory on the strength of a career-best performance by sophomore running back Tarik Cohen. The 2013 MEAC Freshman of the Year carried the ball 20 times for 234 yards. It was the fourth consecutive 100-plus yards rushing game for Cohen and the second 200-plus yards performance of his brief career. Cohen ran for 210 yards against Florida A&M. His 81-yard touchdown run sealed the win against Elon. The Aggies (2-1), No. 9 in the FCS in rushing offense (270 yards a game) ran for 271 yards.
In addition to his decisive touchdown run, Cohen threw a three-yard scoring pass to Denzel Keyes with 28 seconds left in the first period to give North Carolina A&T a 10-3 lead. It was the first touchdown pass of the season for the Aggies, who scored nine rushing touchdowns. The Aggies’ defense was just as impressive as Cohen. Elon drove within the shadow of North Carolina A&T’s goalpost four times, reaching the 3-, 6-, 11-, 4- and 4-yard line. But each time the Aggies turned the Phoenix away with a field goal.