CHARLESTON, Ill. — Geremy Hickbottom finished with three touchdowns (two rushing and one thrown) as the Tennessee State University football team shut out Eastern Illinois, 28-0, on Saturday afternoon.
The shutout was TSU’s first D1/OVC defensive blanking since 2013, a 31-0, win over SEMO. The last overall shutout was a 60-0 win over Virginia Lynchburg in 2017.
The win is also TSU’s first three-game winning streak since 2017 when they defeated Georgia State, Jackson State, and Florida A&M to start the season 3-0. Within the OVC, the last time TSU won three straight league matches was in 2013 with victories over SEMO, Jacksonville St. and UT Martin.
The Tiger defense forced nine punts and had four takeaways (3 INTs and one fumble recovery), the most in the last eight games. The Tiger D shut down the Panthers to the tune of 2-for-17 on third down.
TSU finished the contest with 308 yards split between 147 rushing and 161 passing yards.
Devon Starling showed why he was named the Co-OVC Rookie of the Year as a freshman with his third 100+-yard rushing game of the season. He finished with 122 on 25 carries with one touchdown and. Had a 30yard carry which led to his seven-yard TD.
Zaire Thornton had a breakout game, as the rookie wide receiver had 76 yards on four receptions and scored his first collegiate touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers threatened on the opening drive with a 26-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to Thornton, which moved the Tigers into scoring position, but kicker Antonio Zita missed a 52-yard field goal.
The Tiger defense held the Panthers to a quick four and out during their first try on offense and then on the next defensive sequence, Eddie Grahamkept the Panthers off the board with an interception from the end zone.
The Tigers picked up their second interception of the half, a 47-yard return by James Green with 11:45 left. TSU needed two plays on the initial drive to cross the line with a one-yard plunge by Hickbottom. Zita completed the point after to give TSU a 7-0 lead.
In the second half, the TSU defense caused havoc with its third INT when Joshua Green gave his team the ball at the TSU 35.
After EIU’s sixth punt of the contest, Hickbottom wasted no time with a 19-yard rush from to the outside for his second score of the day. Punt returner Zach Dodson put the Tigers in the red zone with a 19-yard return from the EIU 49.
Hickbottom unleashed fury on the EIU defense with a pair of attempts to Thornton, first a 10-yard completion and then a diving touchdown from 16 out. The duo
TSU needed five plays to return to the end zone as Starling rushed for a seven-yard touchdown. He ran three of the five plays with his longest rush of 30 yards to put the team inside the red zone.
Tennessee State returns to Nissan Stadium next Saturday to host Murray State at 5 p.m. on Homecoming Day.