The Tennessee State University Tigers love to come to Memphis. TSU has won 13 of the past 15 Southern Heritage Classics, including the last six games – before last year. So even though they’re coming off a 26-45 trouncing at the hands of Middle Tennessee State University, they’re looking forward to the Bluff City.
“It’s always a great game to go to in Memphis,” said TSU Senior Defensive End Dante’ Ferguson after the loss. “A lot of people, great crowd and atmosphere. I’m just excited to get out there and get after Jackson State.”
The 2018 Southern Heritage Classic was rained out and was never made up. Overall, TSU limped to a 4-5 record – a record TSU Head Coach Rod Reed aims to correct this season.
Reed is entering his ninth season at TSU. Reed has coached a total of 28 All-Americans and 62 All-Ohio Valley Conference players in his seven seasons as a head coach and has earned a 43-37 record. And he’s looking forward to cleaning some things up before meeting JSU on Saturday.
“These [TSU fans] are going to come out. They love Tennessee State football. Hopefully you guys will see a better product next week when we play Jackson State,” Reed said after the MTSU loss. “I thought we made a huge improvement from last week to this week. I know we still have a couple penalties, but I was overall pleased with the way we played tonight, except for giving up big plays.”
There are 47 returning letter-winners to the Reed’s team. The offense has eight starters returning, while the defense has seven starters returning. Among the offensive returners is senior wide receiver and return specialist Chris Rowland.
Rowland was named an All-American by HERO Sports a season ago, and ranked 11th nationally in receptions per game (7.1) and 20th in receiving yards/game (90.9). He finished the season with 57 catches for 727 yards and five touchdowns. He also ranked sixth nationally in punt returns, averaging 13.0 yards on 14 returns.
“The running backs did great today,” Rowland said after the MTSU game. “I’m proud of all of them. I think we work really hard. We stepped up today. We’ll be back next week for Jackson State.”
TSU’s leader Cameron Rosendahl passed for 159 yards on 14-24 completion and one touchdown against MTSU. Micheal Hughes also saw the field for the first time this season as a backup, registering 7-8 completions on 100 yards and one touchdown handoff to DeMarco Corbin.
“Cam [Rosendahl] got banged up a little bit, so we had to go to Mike [Hughes] in the second half,” Reed said. “Then Mike got banged up, so we had to go back with Cam. So right now, we’ve got to get those guys well, and make sure we can be ready for (JSU).”
QUICK HITS: There are three Memphians on TSU’s squad this year: Senior OL Thomas Burton (Whitehaven); freshman OL Caleb Waller (Manassas) and redshirt sophomore DB Earl Harrison (Ridgeway).
The Southern Heritage Classic kicks off at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14 at the Liberty Bowl Stadium.
Lee Eric Smith contributed to this report.