GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University football team will host its 2019 home-opener this Saturday night when the Pioneers take on 20th-ranked West Alabama at the Niswonger Sports Complex and Pioneer Field. This will be the inaugural meeting between the Pioneers and Tigers.
This weekend's in-region clash will mark the 29th home lid-lifter in the history of Pioneer Field as TU owns a 20-8 record in its home openers since the reinstatement of the sport in 1991.
RECAPPING LAST WEEK
The Pioneers (0-1) are looking to bounce back from last week's 24-10 road loss to Delta State University. TU trailed 10-0 at the half and surrendered two third quarter touchdowns, before responding with 10 points in the final frame.
Defensively, the quartet of Ivan Hogans, Malik Goodman, Chris Matheus and Isaiah Dunn each tallied seven tackles apiece. Hogans, a junior linebacker from Stockbridge, Georgia, led the Pioneers with four tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry as the Tusculum "D" limited the Statesmen to 10 first downs and 295 yards of offense.
The Tusculum redshirt freshmen duo of Joaquin Collazo and Bryce Moore both saw action at quarterback in their collegiate debuts last week. Collazo earned the start under center as he passed for 117 yards and a touchdown, while Moore led TU to its first scoring drive of the game resulting in a 36-yard field goal by rookie kicker Alan Andrzejewski.
Senior All-South Atlantic Conference running back Jordon Shippy ran for 56 yards on 19 carries and also hauled in a 24-yard TD catch late in the contest. Sophomore Maurice Gomillion and redshirt freshmen Thurlow Wilkins also saw action in the TU backfield.
The special teams return duo of Dee Alford and Thurlow Wilkins shined for the Pioneers in the season-opener. Alford accounted for 65 yards on four punt returns, while Wilkins posted 153 yards on his five returns on kickoffs, which are the seventh-most in a TU single-game.
Tusculum will face its second Gulf South Conference opponent in as many weeks as West Alabama comes to Greeneville for the first time. This will be the Tigers second straight South Atlantic Conference opponent as UWA defeated Limestone College last Saturday, 35-18 in Livingston.
West Alabama amassed 451 total yards led by junior quarterback Jack McDaniels as he went 21-of-37 for 279 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Derrick Underwood led the ground assault for the Tigers as he ran for 69 yards on 14 carries including a pair of touchdowns.
Junior defensive back Jordan Graddy leads the Tigers with nine tackles including one for loss and a pass break-up. Senior Tavarius Hutchinson added seven stops against Limestone, while junior defensive tackle Undraez Lilly posted five tackles in last week's win.
West Alabama went 8-4 in 2018 to advance to the NCAA Division II Playoffs for a second consecutive year. The Tigers are coached by UWA graduate Brett Gilliland who is in his sixth season at the helm at his alma mater.
Tusculum's Thurlow Wilkins leads the league in kickoff return average, posting 30.6 yards per return which is ranked 14th in the nation. Dee Alford is second in the league in punt return average at 16.3 ypr, which is also fifth-best in NCAA Division II.
Ivan Hogans is second in the country in tackles for loss per game (4.0 avg), while wide receiver Tory Ponder is tops in the league averaging 35.5 yards per reception (12th in NCAA II). Also listed in this week's NCAA II statistics for Tusculum are Isaiah Dunn who is posting 1.0 interception per game (2nd in SAC/11th in NCAA II) while David Johnson is tallying 2.0 passes defended per outing (2nd in SAC/33rd in NCAA II).
This year's home opener will be Tusculum's "Black Out" game as Pioneer Fans are asked to wear their TU Black to Saturday night's game. Also, the first 500 fans will receive a 2019 Tusculum Football schedule magnet as well as mini-schedule posters (as supplies last).
General admission tickets for Saturday's game are $12 each with children ages 12 and under receiving free admission. Tickets go on sale starting at 4:30 p.m. on game day (No Advance Ticket Sales).
PIONEER SPORTS NETWORK
Saturday's game will be broadcast on the Pioneer Sports Network. Join the "Voice of the Pioneers" Brian Stayton, along with Joe Byrd, Justin Jeffers and Nathan Humbard as they describe all the action. Listen locally in Greene County on WSMG Radio at 95.5 FM and 1450 AM. A free video stream of the game will also be available at www.TusculumPioneers.com and on the department's YouTube page at www.YouTube.com/TusculumAthletics.