TSU no pushover

After playing losing three tough games to good teams, Vanderbilt faces the neighboring Tennessee State Tigers on Saturday for the first time ever. On paper it may look like a pretty sure win for Vanderbilt. TSU is a division I-AA team from the Ohio Valley Conference. The Tigers lost to Alabama A&M, 27-20, in their 2006 opener but have since won two straight.

Vanderbilt fans know there's no such thing as a "sure win" for Vanderbilt. Memories of past games with Western Michigan, Middle Tennessee, Miami (Ohio) and others come to mind. In 2004 Vanderbilt struggled for four quarters with Eastern Kentucky before coming away with a 19-7 victory. Will Tennessee State be the Eastern Kentucky of 2006?

While Bobby Johnson thinks the Commodores have fought hard in the first three games he's not satisfied, "We've got to win some games to get up lifted. I don't want to say I'm not proud of our team but we've played well in three tough games but we'd like to win some games," said the fifth year Vanderbilt coach. The Commodores hope to pick up that elusive first victory against the Tigers but it might not be that easy.

Tennessee State is clearly improved under second year coach James Webster. After finishing 2-9 in his first season last year, Webster has already matched that win total this season. The Tigers picked up a win last week in Memphis over Jackson State, 31-30.

"He's a very good coach. He's coached at a lot of places and been successful. I think he's got the excitement back in Tennessee State football," said Johnson of Webster.

The Big Blue is led by quarterback Antonio Heffner. Heffner (6-3, 200) is a former South Carolina Gamecock who transferred to Tennessee State. Through three games Heffner has completed 38 of 66 passes for 603 yards, 4 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

"Hefner is a very mobile quarterback who can also throw the ball extremely well," said Johnson.

Hefner's top target is receiver Mike Mason. Mason has 11 catches for 122 yards in three games. However, Mason is unlikely to play against Vanderbilt due to an injury. Look for sophomore Chris Johnson to pick up the slack for Mason.

"They have a lot of great athletes. The receiver corps and quarterback are great. A bunch of guys came in and transferred. We heard a lot of great stuff about them. He [Hefner] has a great arm and likes to gamble a little bit. We have some young corners; I'm young, they might try to pick on us the first couple of series or the entire game," said Vanderbilt red shirt cornerback Darlron Spead.

On the ground, the Tiger's Javarris Williams has 361 yards and four touchdowns rushing for the Tigers.

Defensively a recognizable name for Vanderbilt fans is defensive lineman Lamar Divens. Divens transferred from Vanderbilt to MTSU after the 2005 season but has now ended up at TSU. Through three games Divens has 4.5 tackles along with a one tackle for lost yardage against Murray State which scored a safety for his new team.


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