Not since 2018 has Tennessee State found itself at 2-1 at any point in a season.
The Tigers were able to pull out a come-from-behind 27-25 win over Gardner-Webb in their last game on a 50-yard James Lowery field goal in the waning seconds of the contest.
Up next for the Tigers is a road trip on Saturday at No. 22 UT Martin. Getting their third win on the season will be no easy task for Tennessee State. The Skyhawks (3-1, 0-0) have at least claimed a share of the OVC crown the past two seasons, splitting it with Southeast Missouri in 2021 and outright winning the title in 2022.
Making that task more challenging for Tennessee State will be contending with the number one offense in the OVC-Big South; UT Martin is the top-ranked scoring offense in the conference, averaging 37 points and 489 yards per game.
The engine for the Skyhawks’ high-powered offense is their rushing attack, which racks up a league-leading 278.8 yards per game. The driving force of that running game is redshirt sophomore running back Sam Franklin.
“He’s the best back we have seen this year, and we [have] faced some pretty damn good backs,” said Tennessee State head coach Eddie George. “Franklin is the best we have seen today because he can hit the home run. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. I don’t think you can stop him. You have to be able to control him.”
Franklin is the reigning Big South-OVC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 221 yards and two touchdowns in Martin’s 37-21 win over North Alabama.
The Little Rock, Arkansas native averages a conference-best 163.2 yards per game; his 653 rushing yards are the most in either FCS or FBS.
Tennessee State will have its hands full trying to derail a running back who averages 8.1 yards per carry, and outside the 46 yards Franklin had against Georgia, he recorded no fewer than 127 yards in any of UT Martin’s four games this season.
The TSU defense allows the fourth-most rushing yards in the Big South OVC at 177.7 yards per game and is tied for allowing the third-most yards per carry at 4.9.
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