Scott Lathrop and Levi Terrell each rushed for over 100 yards, but it wasn't enough as No. 18 Tennessee State (7-0) remained undefeated with a 40-28 victory over Southeast Missouri (2-4, 1-2) Saturday night at Missouri National Guard Field Houck Stadium.
Lathrop posted career-highs in both rushing (145) and passing yards (222), and had a hand in two touchdowns, while Terrell followed with 110 yards and two TDs.
That, however, fell shy of overshadowing TSU running back Trabis Ward, who sprung for three fourth-quarter touchdowns to send the Tigers to their seventh-straight win and first victory at Houck Stadium since 1999.
Ward scored a touchdown on two different occasions after the Redhawks had pulled to within five points in the final 15 minutes.
His 1-yard touchdown run came after Terrell's 52-yard strike made it a 26-21 game with 10:42 remaining.
Then, after true freshman Paul McRoberts, made a spectacular acrobatic catch in the back left corner of the end zone to slice TSU's lead to 33-28 at the 2:22 mark, Ward broke free for a 30-yard touchdown to nail down the win with 1:26 on the clock. His game-high fourth rushing TD came moments after TSU recovered an onside kick.
"We had our chances, but I'm proud of the effort our guys put out there tonight," said Southeast head coach Tony Samuel. "That game went down to the wire and we were in it until the end."
TSU drove 72 yards on 15 plays during the game's opening drive, but Darion Hall coughed up the ball on a 1st-and-Goal carry from the Southeast 6-yardline. Josyah O'Keefe-Lopez recovered for the Redhawks.
After Southeast punted the ball away on its first possession, both teams exchanged touchdowns the next time they had the ball.
The Tigers used a 34-yard completion from Michael German to Wesley Samuels on the first play, again moving into Southeast territory.
German later hooked up with Devin Wilson on a 12-yard pass before capping the 7-play, 49-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Johntae Gleaves, giving the Tigers a 7-0 lead with 3:54 left in the first quarter.
Southeast answered quickly when Lathrop exploded for 44 yards on three carries to key a 6-play, 75-yard surge. Lathrop scored his third rushing touchdown of the season on a 13-yard run to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:41 remaining.
The Tigers, who made it inside the Redhawks 10-yardline on four of their five possessions in the first half, added 10 more points to build a 17-10 lead at intermission.
After Jamin Godfrey kicked a 25-yard field goal, TSU's defense made a big stop when Wilson Robinson dropped Lathrop for no gain on a 4th-and-1.
The Tigers took over on downs at Southeast's 40-yardline and later capitalized on a 7-yard touchdown run by Ward to push their lead to 17-7 at the 8:06 mark in the second quarter.
TSU had 17 first downs and converted 7-of-9 times on third down in the first half. The Tigers also held Southeast to just seven points in the first half, its second-lowest point total in the game's opening 30 minutes this year.
Southeast wasted no time getting right back in the game early in the second half.
The Redhawks started on their own 18-yardline and covered 82 yards on 12 plays. Southeast picked up five first downs and chewed up 6:35 on its way to the end zone.
Lathrop broke free for runs of 15 and 16 yards, respectively, to help move Southeast to the TSU-29.
Terrell took over from there, picking up the last 23 yards on three-consecutive carries. He scored his first touchdown of the season on a 7-yard run to cut the Tigers lead to 17-14 with 8:25 left to play in the third quarter.
TSU widened the gap when it countered with a 42-yard field goal by Godfrey that just cleared the crossbar to give the Tigers a 20-14 advantage with a little over four minutes.
Southeast was in business on its ensuing drive when true freshman made a nice 28-yard over the shoulder catch on the second play. The Redhawks managed to get to the TSU-23 before Lathrop's pass was tipped into the hands of Steven Godbolt.
Godbolt returned his interception 62 yards to set up another Tiger touchdown, this a 4-yard run by Ward with 13:18 remaining.
Both teams combined for 34 points in the fourth quarter, including 20 by TSU.
Ward accounted for 267 of TSU's 306 yards on the night. He carried the ball 43 times, averaging 6.2 yards per rush.
German completed 17-of-27 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown.
Lathrop became the seventh Southeast quarterback to rush for over 100 yards in a game. He averaged nearly seven yards (6.9) per carry on 21 attempts.
Terrell, who posted his third-straight 100-yard rushing effort, followed close behind with an average of 6.1 yards on 18 carries.
Southeast's receivers were also active, as three different Redhawks had five catches. D.J. Foster finished with 86 yards, while McRoberts and Matt Bell added 66 and 54 yards, respectively.
Defensively, Blake Peiffer (14), Tylor Brock (12), Tim Hamm-Bey (10) and Branden Spann (10) contributed double-digit tackles. Peiffer surpassed 300 career tackles in the first quarter, and as a result, became only the seventh Southeast player to get 300 tackles in a career.
Additionally, the Redhawks racked up a season-high 510 yards of total offense, and scored the most points of any opponent against TSU's defense this year.
Southeast closes out its two-game homestand when it hosts UT Martin on Oct. 20. That game will kickoff at 1 p.m., CT, as part of Homecoming weekend.