The Tennessee State defense forced six turnovers as TSU knocked off Jackson State, 26-16, in the 24th Annual Southern Heritage Classic.
Redshirt sophomore running back Telvin Hooks was named the game's Most Valuable Player, rushing for 92 yards on 16 carries for an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Senior Tim Broughton added 95 yards rushing on 19 touches.
JSU outgained Big Blue 367 yards to 285, but TSU's defense accounted for 198 yards via interception returns and added a score.
Tennessee State got the ball to start the game and Ronald Butler proceeded to orchestrate a ten-play, 76-yard drive that culminated in Jamin Godfrey 26-yard field goal. Butler was 2-of-4 on the series including a 27-yard completion to Ryan Mitchell and a 24-yard toss to A.C. Leonard.
Jackson State picked up a first down on its first drive, but Stephen Godbolt III intercepted Clayton Moore's fifth pass of the game and brought it back 15 yards before fumbling. TSU's Daniel Fitzpatrick immediately leapt on the ball, setting up the Big Blue offense on JSU's 48.
Godbolt's pick was his first of the season, a year removed from leading all Football Championship Subdivision with six during the 2012 campaign.
TSU was unable to capitalize off of the turnover and punted the ball back to Jackson State with 5:18 left in the first quarter.
JSU made it six plays down the field this time before Nick Thrasher forced a fumble and Anthony Bass recovered the ball in Jackson State territory.
Thrasher led the team with 12 tackles while Bass chipped in with five stops and TSU's only two sacks of the contest.
Butler marched his Tigers down to the 18 yard line before a penalty, sack and screen pass that went for negative yardage setup a third and 32. Butler tried to pick up the first down by threading the needle to Leonard, but JSU's Ryan Griffin easily intercepted the pass and brought it back 78 yards for a Jackson State score.
Butler finished the game 5-of-8 for 69 yards with the lone interception.
JSU held a 7-3 advantage at the end of the first quarter despite TSU outgaining the Miss. school 114-53.
Redshirt junior quarterback Michael German entered the game to start the second period, but his entrance led to no immediate points as TSU was forced to punt during its opening drive of the second quarter. Butler would not return.
JSU picked up four first downs on its next possession, but senior Andrew Taylor stepped in front of a pass for Jackson State's third turnover of the half. Taylor returned the pick all the way to the Jackson State seven, but TSU was unable to find the end zone. Godfrey canned his second field goal of the game – this one from 23 yards out – bringing the Tigers within one of the lead, 7-6, with eight minutes to go before the break.
Five straight runs and a 26-yard passing play set up JSU at the Tennessee State six yard line, but again, the Big Blue defense forced a key turnover. This time, De'Ante Saunders intercepted the ball on the goal line and raced down the sideline. Saunders eventually lost the foot race, but he still managed to return the ball 71 yards to the JSU 29.
A defensive targeting penalty caused Jackson State's leading tackler last season Cameron Loeffler to be ejected and put the ball on JSU's 12-yard line. Broughton rushed up the middle for eight yards on TSU's next play, but a personal foul penalty moved the offense back to the 16. Big Blue couldn't overcome the setback, and settled for Godfrey's third field goal of the half.
The senior's kick put TSU up 9-7 heading into halftime and also moved him into fifth place on the school's all-time career scoring list with 235 points.
German finished the half 0-for-7 passing and the TSU defense outgained its offensive teammates, 147 to 136 during the game's first 30 minutes.
The sides traded punts to start the third quarter, but JSU completed a 54-yard bomb on the first play of its second possession of the half. Four plays later, JSU nailed a 22-yard field goal that hit off of the upright, and bounced in. The kick allowed Jackson State to re-take the lead at 10-9 with eight minutes to play in the third.
A Mitchell 18-yard reception and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on JSU gave Godfrey another chance at three points on TSU's next series with a 29-yard attempt. Like JSU's, Godfrey's kick hit the upright, but the ball bounced out, squandering another red zone opportunity.
Mitchell's two grabs for 45 yards were the most by a Tiger receiver this year.
TSU scored four times on its six red zone chances during the contest, but only one went for a touchdown. Tennessee State has had the ball in the red zone 11 times this season, but has only scored three touchdowns in those chances.
After a JSU three-and-out, TSU finally found pay dirt with a nine play, 63-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from German that put TSU in the driver's seat, 16-10. Hooks was the workhorse on the drive, totaling five carries for 42 yards.
In his first game of the season, German completed 4-of-14 passes for 42 yards. It was his lowest yardage output since his first career game during his freshman season.
Godfrey punched in a 42-yard field goal to begin the fourth quarter, and then Daniel Fitzpatrick intercepted JSU's very next play and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. The pick six made the score 26-10 in favor of TSU with eight minutes left to play.
Five drives and a David Van Dyke interception later, JSU found the end zone for the second time when Evan Ingram scored from one yard out. The ensuing two-point conversion failed, and TSU led, 26-16, which would wound up being the final score.
TSU's six forced turnovers were the most for the team since 2005 when Big Blue came up with seven cough ups against Tennessee Tech on Oct. 13.
With his 14 points against JSU, Godfrey now has 239 points for his career. He is 13 points away from tying Charles Anthony for fourth on the school's all-time scoring list.