Late field goal lifts Tennessee State to win over Gardner-Webb in 25th John A. Merritt Classic

Tennessee State was able to get their second win of the season with a dramatic, come from behind-from-behind 27-25 win over 2022 Big South champion Gardner Webb in the 25th John A. Merritt Classic. 

After falling behind early,Tennessee State was able to pull even twice, with touchdowns from Daveon Bryant and a Da’Shon Davis squaring the game at 7 and 14 apiece, respectively, but would go into halftime down 17-14. TSU took their first lead of the evening , 21-17  in the third quarter on Jalen Rouse’s 7-yard scamper.  A safety later in the period trimmed the Tiger lead to 21-19. A 43-yard field goal from James Lowery extended the Tennessee State lead to 24-19 with 6:32 left in the contest. GWU responded with a an 11-play , 75-yard drive that took just 1:37 off the clock that reclaimed the lead at 25-24 with a Matthew Caldwell 16-yard touchdown pass. Tennessee State mounted an 11-play drive of their own, that would seal the game when Lowery connected with a 50-yard field goal that put TSU up for good, 27-25. 

Draylen Ellis plays big

As we reported earlier in the week, that even with quarterback Daveon Bryant’s solid performance against Arkansas Pine Bluff in the Southern Heritage Classic, Tennessee State head coach Eddie George was non-comittal about turning the starting job over to Bryant. With Bryant running into some struggles throwing the football, he did run for 53 yards and a touching, Coach George turned to former started Draylen Ellis and he responded. Ellis provided steady play, completing 15 of his 28 pass attempts for 154 yards, including a 55-yard scoring toss to Da’Shon Davis that tied the game at 14. Ellis also guided the TSU offense on their last two drives , completing 9 of 14 passes for 77 yards, including the one led to the game-winning field goal. 

James Lowery’s right leg

After struggling against Notre Dame in the season opener, Lowery has not missed a kick., converting his sole field goal last week and both of his attempts Saturday night. The most important points of the night came off the foot of the Northern Illinois transfer. Lowery’s 50-yard field goal with 0:09 left proved to be the deciding factor, putting TSU up 27-25. 

Tennessee State’s ongoing ball security issues

Tennessee State continues to have trouble holding on to the football. The Tigers fumbled the ball five times last week against UAPB and followed that up with putting the ball on the ground on a pair of occasions Saturday night. Although Gardner Webb was able to recover one of the fumbles, they were unable to turn it into points. 

Tennessee State, now 2-1,  will continue in conference play with a road matchup in two weeks with UT Martin. 

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