Fans of the Tennessee State football team got their first glimpse of the 2017 Tigers on Saturday with the annual Blue and White Spring Scrimmage at Hale Stadium. Using a specialized scoring system, the offense wearing blue topped the defense in white by a 37-16 final score.
Quarterback Treon Harris engineered scoring drives on two of the first three possessions to lead the offense on the afternoon. The transfer from Florida rushed for a touchdown on the day, while fellow quarterback Michael Hughes also had a touchdown pass for the offense.
A five-play opening drive featured a 25-yard connection from Harris to wide receiver Patrick Smith down the left sideline. Harris, who was three-for-three passing on the first possession, capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
On the next drive, highlighted by Terrell Bonds’ pass breakup for the defense, the offense was forced to punt. Going five-for-six on the offense’s third possession, Harris was able to move the offense down the field for another score. Steven Newbold reeled in a pair of first down catches with tight end Aaron Cauthen adding an 18-yard reception near the red zone. Andrew Knox punched in a two-yard touchdown run to finish off the drive.
Hughes took over at quarterback for the offense for the remainder of the first half. The defense forced two punts on the next two possessions with Justin North securing a tackle for a loss to force a third and long on the first drive.
On the final possession of the half, Hughes orchestrated a six-play drive for a score. Wide receiver Ronnie Killings caught a 20-yard pass to set up first and goal before hauling in a seven-yard touchdown on the next play.
The defense stood up to the test to open the third quarter, forcing a pair of three-and-outs.
Hughes ran for a first down and the offense added another on an eight yard first down catch from DeVon Johnson before three-straight stops forced the third punt of the half.
On the final full possession of the game, which included three-first downs, the offense missed a field goal when the drive stalled.
The Spring Game concludes spring action for the Tigers. TSU opens the fall season on Aug. 31 at Georgia State in Atlanta, Ga.
“I thought it went really well. I was pleased to see the offense come out and be able to move the football,” said TSU Head Coach Rod Reed about the scrimmage. “We knew we were going to be very vanilla on defense today. There were a lot of things you didn’t see. No pressure, no blitzes or anything like that. I just wanted to see us sitting back in our base defense. Get to their assignments, make the blocks they needed to block, protect who they needed to protect. We broke down in protection a couple of times today but as you can see, Treon (Harris) is really athletic back there, and he’s able to get out of a lot of some situations that some kids just can’t do. That’s a great attribute that he has. I think it’s going to bode well for our program. Defensively, we wanted to see some young guys. We saw the older guys in there probably the first three or four series, and then we watched some young guys. We’re trying to develop a little bit of depth.
“I think the attitude is a lot different” Redd continued about the defense. “The kids are buying in. Like I said, today, we wanted things to be pretty vanilla. We’ve got a lot of stuff, if you were at the last scrimmage, you saw how dominant that the defense really was. Today, we wanted to sit back and be basic. The main thing is we wanted to come out and showcase a football team for next year. We wanted the fans to be able to come out to see some of the guys they’re going to see next year and to not get anybody injured. I think we accomplished all of that today.
“He’s very illusive back there,” Reed said about the play of quarterback Treon Harris. “He’s not just a scrambler. He’s got really good pocket awareness. He slides around in the pocket and he’s going to hold it until the very last minute before he gets out of there. You have to like that about your quarterback. He keeps his eyes down field.”