Tennessee State claims 25th John A. Merritt Classic 27-25 over Gardner-Webb

Courtesy of Tennessee State Athletics

Gardner-Webb Logo



Tennessee State Logo


Winner TSU


NASHVILLE — The Tennessee State football team took down Gardner-Webb 27-25 in the John Merritt Classic on Saturday evening for their first Big South-OVC win of the year.  

The Tigers improved to 2-1 on the year and 1-0 in Big South-OVC Conference play, while the Runnin’ Bulldogs fell to 1-2 and 0-1.

Jalen Rouse totaled 53 yards to lead the Tigers’ ground attack and added one touchdown in the game. Deveon Bryant also tacked on 53 yards and one touchdown on the ground, picking up 7.6 yards per carry.

Da’Shon Davis pulled in three catches for 64 yards and one score. Karate Brenson made his presence felt in the passing game, recording six receptions for 51 yards.

Cameron Stewart paced the Tennessee State defensive effort, recording 1.0 TFL, one sack, and one forced fumble. Terrell Allen had 1.0 TFL in the win.

Defensively, Tennessee State held up fairly well against the Gardner-Webb rushing attack, holding the Bulldogs to 145 yards on the ground.How It Happened

After falling behind 7-0, Tennessee State fired back with a touchdown with 2:16 remaining in the first quarter to tie it at 7-7 as Bryant took one 24 yards to the house. Gardner-Webb scored to go ahead 14-7 before the Tigers responded with a score of their own to tie things up at 14-14 as Draylen Ellis found Da’Shon Davis on a 55-yard TD pass.

Gardner-Webb then grabbed a 17-14 lead, but Tennessee State got on the scoreboard again at the 6:40 left mark in the third quarter with a seven-yard touchdown run from Jalen Rouse to jump back in front 21-17. The Tigers continued to add to their lead after Gardner-Webb closed the gap to 21-19, scoring again to go up 24-19 as Lowery connected on a 49-yard FG.After a 16 yard passing TD from GWU to go up 25-24, the Tigers, led by kicker James Lowerywould tack on three more points with 12 seconds left as he connected on a career-long 50-yard FG to five TSU the win.   

Game Notes

» Gardner-Webb outgained Tennessee State 364-341 in the contest.
» Tennessee State converted 7 of 20 third downs while Gardner-Webb was successful on 5 of 22.
» Monroe Beard III led the Tigers with 12 tackles.
» Tennessee State won the time of possession battle 31:08 to 28:52.
» Matthew Caldwell led the Bulldogs passing attack, completing 20 of his 49 attempts for 219 yards and two touchdowns.
» Narii Gaither led the Gardner-Webb rushing attack with 152 yards and one touchdown.

TSU will be off next weekend for their bye week. 

Next Game:
at UT Martin
9/30/2023 | 6:00 PM
WNSR —  560 AM, 95.9 FM (Nashville), 107.9 FM (Smyrna)

Team Statistics

Game StatsGWUTSU
Total Yards364341
Pass Yards219221
Rushing Yards145120
Penalty Yards4-4511-73
1st Downs1817
3rd Downs5-227-20
4th Downs2-40-0
GWU10:37 – GWU – Gaither,Narii 1 yd run (Billingsley,Jay kick), 6 plays, 49 yards, TOP 01:5570
TSU02:16 – TSU – Bryant,Deveon 24 yd run (Lowery,James kick), 3 plays, 48 yards, TOP 01:2977
GWU09:51 – GWU – Hough,Darius 28 yd pass from Caldwell,Matthew (Billingsley,Jay kick) 4 plays, 30 yards, TOP 01:15147
TSU01:39 – TSU – Davis,Da’Shon 55 yd pass from Ellis,Draylen (Lowery,James kick) 3 plays, 66 yards, TOP 00:561414
GWU00:00 – GWU – Billingsley,Jay 48 yd field goal 7 plays, 42 yards, TOP 01:321714
TSU06:40 – TSU – Rouse,Jalen 7 yd run (Lowery,James kick), 1 plays, 7 yards, TOP 00:051721
GWU05:21 – GWU – 0 yd safety1921
TSU06:32 – TSU – Lowery,James 49 yd field goal 10 plays, 35 yards, TOP 04:141924
GWU04:50 – GWU – Gaither,Narii 16 yd pass from Caldwell,Matthew ( ) 9 plays, 75 yards, TOP 01:372524
TSU00:09 – TSU – Lowery,James 50 yd field goal 10 plays, 62 yards, TOP 01:372527

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