Nashville, Tenn. - A game of inches came down to just that as a successful goal line stand in the final minute secured a 17-14 Tennessee State victory over Florida A&M at the 14th annual John A Merritt Classic.
TSU (1-0) got off to a quick start as they opened the season on a seven play, 58-yard drive that culminated on a 22-yard pass from Michael German to wide receiver Devin Wilson. German and Wilson connected earlier in the drive on a 44-yard completion, which were more yards than FAMU (0-1) gained in the entire first quarter.
The Tigers forced FAMU to punt on their first possession and followed that up with a long, 14-play drive that ended with a German fumble at the FAMU 32-yard line that was recovered by the Rattlers.
The Tigers started the second half just like they started the first, with a scoring drive. This time, Jamin Godfrey connected on a 38-yard field goal to give TSU a 10-0 edge.
Trabis Ward would cap off a nine play, 80-yard drive with a six yard touchdown run to extend the Tiger lead to 17.
FAMU would start their rally at the end of the third quarter with a 54-yard kickoff return by James Owens to the TSU 26-yard line. The Rattlers would need only three plays to find the end zone as quarterback Tyler Bass threw a 13-yard touchdown to Travis Harvey.
Early in the 4th quarter, FAMU would make it a one score game as QB Damien Fleming threw an eight yard touchdown pass to Michael Etheridge.
The Rattlers final possession of the game started 88-yards away from the end zone and ended less than a yard shy of taking the lead.
TSU stopped FAMU twice in the final minute from the one-yard line on third and goal and fourth and goal as Fleming failed to reach the end zone on back-to-back sneaks.
German was named Offensive MVP as he went 22-of-32 for 263 yards and one touchdown along with one interception.
Defensive MVP honors went to TSU sophomore linebacker Nick Thrasher who finished with a game-high 10 tackles, nine solo, as well as two tackles for a loss. FAMU LB Brandon Hepburn shared the award as he tallied eight tackles, seven solo, along with one-and-a-half sacks and three-and-a-half tackles for loss.
Tennessee State goes on the road next week for the first time this season as they travel to Memphis to take on Jackson State (0-1) in the 23rd Southern Heritage Classic at 6:00 p.m.