23rd John A. Merritt Classic preview: Tennessee State v Kentucky State

Coach Eddie George and his Tennessee State football looks to get their first win of the season this Saturday when they take on the SIAC’s Kentucky State in the 23rd edition of the John Merritt Classic.

The Tigers will face a thoroughbred team that lives up their mascot’s name because just like a thoroughbred, they like to run. In their 20-6 win over Central State at the Classic for Columbus, they ran the ball 51 times for a total of 322 yards, while not completing a single pass( they only attempted 4 that day). It was a communal effort as at least eight thoroughbreds had at least one carry. Though they had no 100-yard rushers, Christopher Coneway, Kendon Walker and Brett Sylve all had at least 74 yards running for 93, 89 and 74 respectively.

KSU’S second ballgame , a 26-25 loss to Kentucky-Wesleyan College, they also get at least 50 rushing attempts but was only able to compile 133 yards from seven different ball carriers. Quarterback Jaylen Myers was actually allowed to be an offensive contributor completing 12 of his 16 pass attempts for 152 yards and two touchdowns.

While the TSU defense will have te be ready for the Kentucky State ground attack, they will need help from their offense. The tiger offense has been anaemic and inept, as they are averaging a mere 13 points in their first two contests. Issues up front on the offensive line has made it all but impossible to obtain any rhythm, because their turnstyle like play has led to the quarterback, whomever has been under center, running for their lives. When TSU QBs have not been under duress, none of the three field generals that coach George has ran out there has shown a consistent ability to effectively lead the offense, with neither Geremy Hickbottom, Tucker Pope or Deveon Bryant topping 100 yards against Grambling. The unfortunate feat would have been repeated against Jackson State , if not for a 47-yard hick bottom touchdown pass to Rodell Rahmaan with six seconds left in the game.

Despite TSU actually leading in time-of-possession in both games ( having the ball 33;08 in their first game and 31:52 in their second) the Tigers have been unable to make good use of all that clock and it has had an adverse effect on the TSU defense. The tiger defense has been solid in the first but the cracks start to show themselves in the second halves of both games, whether it was in the inability to get key stops against Grambling ,or missed tackles leading to big plays against Jackson State.

If Tennessee State can contain the Kentucky State run game and show a modicum of offensive capability, they will put themselves in a position to post their first win of the Coach Eddie George era, if not then the worse possible scenario for TSU will now be a reality.

The 23rd John A. Merritt Classic will take place Saturday September 18 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee with a 2pm cst scheduled kickoff.

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