It’s been 30 years since Tennessee State has started a season winless through its first four games of the schedule.
Back in 1992, the Tigers dropped contests to Middle Tennessee State, Jackson State, Grambling State and Florida A&M. But under then-head coach Joe Gilliam, TSU rallied to a 5-6 overall record and 5-3 in Ohio Valley play.
Eddie George and the current version of the Tigers are wanting to put things into perspective coming off a loss to Divison II Lane College in the John Merritt Classic that dropped them to a disappointing 0-4.
“That’s what I tell my team, what I tell my staff: we’re not going to be discouraged,” George said Tuesday during the Ohio Valley Conference coaches media availability. “Because we have a team that’s developing. The chemistry’s coming together. I don’t know when we’re going to have our first win, but we have to stay consistent and work. Once it comes we will have an identity and something we can hang our hat on and build on.”
On Saturday, the Tigers were hampered by the absence of 10 starters, including quarterback Draylen Ellis and running back Devon Starling and wide receivers Zack Dobson and Cam Wyche.
George confirmed that Ellis, who is battling a high ankle sprain and Starling, coping with turf toe, were able to practice this week. The two are expected to be game time decisions for the Tiger’s homecoming game versus Bethune-Cookman.
The second-year head coach is hoping with a complete roster at his disposal along with catching a few breaks, will lead to a win in short order.
The Tigers’ record, however, hasn’t exactly been totally reflective of how the team has performed.
TSU opened the season with a 36-29 loss to then-12th ranked Eastern Washington. The following week they battled Jackson State in what was a close 16-3 defeat in the Southern Heritage Classic before being decisively beaten 49-6 at Middle Tennessee State. Against Lane College, the Tigers defense failed to stop a two-point conversion attempt in a 28-27 shocker versus the Dragons at Hale Stadium.
“We’re talking about, honestly, a play, a stop, and we’re looking at this completely different,” George said. “It’s all about perspective. You know, 0-4 is not good but when you look deep into it we’re five plays on the year from being 3-1.”
The TSU schedule over the next several weeks features B-CU, Tennessee Tech, Eastern Illinois and Murray State. Those upcoming opponents have a combined record of 3-14.
George was candid in explaining that it will take time for the program to be where he expects it due to an evolving roster.
“This is not an overnight fix,” George said. “This is not a situation where you add a few pieces and you win a championship. This is going to take some time to figure it out and to get the right pieces, the right parts, the right bodies and develop it holistically.”
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