DAYTONA BEACH, FL — For the second consecutive week the Tigers fought off miscues to secure a 31-24 victory at Bethune-Cookman on Saturday afternoon. The Tigers were called for 15 penalties for close to 150 yards and committed three turnovers.
Tennessee State improved to 3-0 on the season as cornerback Terrell Bonds pulled down a tipped ball by Gabe Scott with just over two minutes remaining in the game. The interception was the second of the game for Bonds, helping the Wildcats fall to 0-2.
O’Shay Ackerman-Carter connected on a 71-yard touchdown pass to Steven Newbold and finished with 112 yards as he completed three passes in seven attempts. The redshirt-sophomore quarterback left the game in the second quarter due to an undisclosed injury.
Senior Ronald Butler finished the game for the Big Blue completing 8-of-16 for 68 yards and two touchdowns in relief. Both signal callers tossed an interception in the contest.
The Tigers ground attack was the story of the game as they rushed 44 times for 200 yards. Freshman Earl Harrison led the way with 110 yards on 13 carries. The Memphis native highlighted his day with a 46 yard run for a second quarter touchdown.
The Tigers struck first on a 44-yard field goal off the foot of Lane Clark. TSU used a 30-yard pass play from Ackerman-Carter to Patrick Smith to move into the Wildcats territory.
B-CU took advantage of an Ackerman-Carter interception and moved the ball 25 yards on five plays to take a 7-3 lead with 4:47 remaining in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Ackerman-Carter escaped the pocket on a third-and-five and found Newbold ten yards down the field. The freshman spun out of the first tackle and avoided another Wildcat and sprinted down the right sideline for the longest play from scrimmage this season for the Tigers.
The 10-7 lead was short-lived as B-CU answered with a rushing touchdown on their next series, taking a 14-10 advantage.
Not to be outdone, the Tigers needed three plays and just over a minute to regain the lead at 17-14 on Harrison’s scoring scamper. The Wildcats would even the score at 17-17 on a field goal just before half.
The Tigers took the lead in the third quarter on the first of Butler’s two scoring passes. The senior tossed a jump ball in the corner of the end zone, allowing Chris Sanders-McCollum to out jump a defender to haul in his first touchdown of the season.
Bethune-Cookman once again pulled even with the Tigers in the first minute of the final stanza. The teams battled back and forth before TSU used the first of Bonds’ picks and began a 5:48 scoring drive late in the fourth. The Tigers covered 48 yards on nine plays and was capped off with a seven-yard scoring toss to Patrick Smith.
Smith has caught a touchdown in each of the first three games and registered the 13th in his career.
The defense secured the win for TSU, who will have a week off before starting Ohio Valley Conference play. UT Martin will be the first challenge for the Tigers on Oct. 1 at Halle Stadium.
GAME NOTES: Captains for TSU were Jessamen Dunker, Chris Collins, Kevin Kenton, O’Shay Ackerman-Carter… TSU won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff… Time of the opening kickoff was 3:59 p.m. (EST)… Weather at the time of kickoff was 86 degrees and sunny… The halftime score was tied for the first time this season… TSU running back Earl Harrison scored his first career touchdown… Wide Receiver Chris Sanders-McCollum registered his seventh career receiving touchdown… TSU moves to 3-0 for the first time since 2012 and the second time overall under Head Coach Rod Reed… TSU improves to 8-1 versus MEAC teams under Rod Reed… The Tigers are now 7-2 all-time versus Bethune-Cookman.
TSU Quarterback Ronald Butler
“I had to do what I had to do to step up and help my team win today.”
– On Stepping in at the Quarterback Position
“I definitely need to represent for the hometown, but it’s not about that. We’re here on a business trip. We’re here to get his ‘W’ and stay undefeated and keep it going.”
– On Playing in Florida
TSU Cornerback Terrell Bonds
“We started off slow. They played us tough, but we came back in the second half and made plays, and that’s what it took to win.”
– On the win tonight
“I prayed for it. That’s my first game in my career with two picks but I’m just happy we came through. We fought tough, battled back and got a win.”
– On two interceptions
TSU Linebacker Chris Collins
“Any win is a good win. We just feel like we have a lot of work to put in. We’ve got the off week and we need the time to get healthy and come out strong for conference play.”
– On the win
“It’s really good. We haven’t been 3-0 since I’ve been here, so that’s a good accomplishment, but we have a lot of work to do. It’s on to the next one.”
– On improving to 3-0
TSU Running Back Earl Harrison
“I had to wait my turn, but thank God I was waiting patiently. I got in and I was ready.”
– On his performance
“That was my second time getting in. I was nervous, but I told myself, ‘it’s no time to be nervous.’ It’s my turn and it’s my chance, and thank God it worked out.”
– On his first career touchdown