The 2018 season kicked off victoriously for the Tennessee State Tigers as they defeated the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats in the 20th annual John Merritt Classic at Nissan Stadium.
The Tigers and Wildcats both started slow out of the blocks, not scoring on their first two possessions. However, after the Tigers went to backup quarterback Michael Hughes, they began to get some offensive rhythm. Hughes would hit Chris Rowland for a first down then hit Rowland again for a 29 yard pass on the next series before throwing a perfect back-shoulder pass to DeVon Johnson from 20 yards out to give TSU their first lead. Hughes would go on to lead the Tigers to another scoring drive while tallying 105 yards passing and one touchdown in the first quarter.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Tigers were bringing the heat early. Despite one big run by quarterback Akevious Williams, the Tigers held the Wildcats in check, led by defensive MVP Blair Edwards. The Tigers would hold the Wildcats to a field goal in the first half as the Tigers took a 21-3 lead to halftime.
The Tigers would go on to score one more offensive touchdown in the second half and would cap the game with a 39 yard interception return by Dajour Nesbitt to give the Tigers their final score of the game.
The Tigers were led offensively by quarterback Michael Hughes, who was 11/18 for 170 yards and one touchdown along with John Merritt Classic Offensive MVP Chris Rowland who had seven receptions for 154 yards while catching passes from starter Demry Croft and Hughes, who would alternate series for most of the game.
Defensively, Edwards was the star, leading the Tigers with seven total tackles, one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss in the game.
The loss by Bethune-Cookman to TSU was the Wildcats worse FCS loss since 2009.
The Tigers next game is the Southern Heritage Classic when they take on the Jackson State Tigers in Memphis, Tennessee.
Check out the entire press conference with coach Rod Reed along with Chris Rowland and Blair Edwards.