Story and photo courtesy of Tennessee State Athletics
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Another game in the Hole, another TSU comeback in the final seconds as a six-yard pass from Michael German to A.C. Leonard as time expired tied Tennessee Tech at 21. A Jamin Godfrey extra point gave the Tigers the 22-21 victory as they improved to 8-1 on the season.
TSU (8-1, 4-1 OVC) started the game off with a surprise onside kick, which TTU recovered at the Tiger 44 yard line, The Golden Eagles (2-6, 0-5) took advantage of the short field with six straight rushes from three different players. Quarterback Darian Stone, starting for the injured Tre Lamb, scored from one yard out for the early 7-0 lead.
The Tigers answered with points on its opening drive as Godfrey split the uprights from 37 yards out to cut into the TTU lead, 7-3.
The Tech offense was not nearly as effective on its next possession without the short field as TSU forced a three-and-out.
The second TSU drive ended just like the first did, with a Godfrey field goal. This time the junior from Englewood, Tenn., hit from 32 yards away to pull TSU to within one at 7-6.
Second verse same as the first as another TTU three-and-out turns into a Godfrey field (27 yards) to give the Tigers its first lead of the game, 9-7, with 14:12 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers scored on its first four possessions of the game, with each being field goals. The defense forced its third consecutive Golden Eagle three-and-out and put Godfrey in position for a 41-yard field goal to push the TSU lead to 12-7.
On the first play of the next Tech possession, Steven Godbolt picked off his sixth pass of the season at the TSU 26 with 7:56 left in the first half. TSU could not take advantage as running back Trabis Ward fumbled two minutes later at the Tech 29.
A 39-yard run for Stone on 2nd-and-13 put the ball in TSU territory. Tack on an extra 15-yards for a personal foul at the end of the run and the Golden Eagles had its best chance to score since the opening drive. A pair of TTU false starts and an eight yard sack by Samquan Evans pushed Tech back to the TSU 41 and set up a third-and-28. Stone would find Eric Belew in the middle of the field for a 41-yard score to retake the lead 14-12 heading into halftime.
The only points for either side in the third quarter was a 22-yard field goal from Godfrey after a TSU drive fizzled out inside the Tech 10 to give the Tigers the one point edge, 15-14. His fifth field goal on the day broke the school record of JJ. Flournoy who went 4-for-4 at Austin Peay on Oct. 6, 1990.
The back-and-forth battle would continue into the fourth quarter as the Golden Eagles put together a nine play, 61-yard drive culminating with a six-yard touchdown pass from Stone to Cody Matthews to regain the lead 21-15 with 13 minutes remaining in the game
Both teams had numerous opportunities to put the game away (TTU) or retake the lead (TSU) in the final quarter. On the TTU drive, Zach Sharp lined up for a 45-yard field goal to clinch the game with just over a minute remaining. Sharp, who entered the game 3-for-6 on the season with a long of 28 yards, missed the kick wide left to give the Tigers one last chance.
With 1:01 on the clock, one time out remaining and 73 yards to go to find the end zone, TSU converted on a pair of third downs and one huge fourth down.
German found Travis James for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10 from the TSU 27 to put the ball near mid-field. Another third-and-10 conversion three plays later, this time to Weldon Garlington for 23 yards, kept the Tigers hopes alive.
On a fourth-and-one at the Tech 14-yard line, German ran for eight yards. After the ball was spiked to stop the clock, one second remained as TSU was still six yards shy.
On the final play of the game, German rolled to his right and found A.C. Leonard in the back of the end zone. Godfrey came on to break the 21-21 tie with the extra point, his 16th point of the game, to give TSU the 22-21 conference win.
German finished the game 24-of-40 for 294 yards and one touchdown. Leonard set career-highs with eight catches for 102 yards to go along with the game tying score. Ward continued his great season with 129 yards on 28 carries.
Nick Thrasher once again led all defenders with nine tackles, six solo.
TSU goes on the road next week to face Murray State next Saturday at 11 a.m.