Houston-Texas Southern senior kicker Robert Hersh could only watch from the sidelines last year after suffering a season-ending leg before the start of summer camp.
On Saturday night against Prairie View A&M in the Labor Day Classic, Hersh made up for lost time with one of the biggest kicks of his TSU career.
Hersh connected on a career-long 47-yard field goal as time expired to propel TSU to a 44-41 victory over Prairie View before a crowd of 22,516 in the 28th annual Labor Day Classic at Reliant Stadium, helping the Tigers beat their main rival for the first time since 2006.
“It feels good,” Hersh said. “When I was injured and couldn’t play, it tore my heart up. But I knew that I could come back stronger, and it’s a good feeling.”
Hersh’s boot also completed a successful regular-season debut for first-year coach Darrell Asberry, who was hired in December after spending the previous five seasons at Division II Shaw, and gave the Tigers a 1-0 start in Southwestern Athletic Conference play.
Saturday’s game saw a clash between two potent offenses, with each reaching the 500-yard mark. TSU led the way with 544 yards, and Prairie View finished with 500.
Quarterback Riko Smalls threw for 222 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 101 yards on 11 carries, and Dantavious Parker also passed for a score. Junior running back Edward Perkins-Loving rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns, and receiver Fred Plummer had five receptions for 142 yards. James Davis caught four passes for 96 yards and two scores, and Hersh was 3-for-4 on field-goal attempts.
The Tigers fell behind 20-7 at the end of the first quarter but scored 24 of the game’s next 31 points, taking their first lead, 31-27, when running back Edward Perkins-Loving scored the second of his two rushing touchdowns with 10:55 left in the third quarter.
The teams exchanged touchdowns and leads for the remainder of the third quarter, with TSU taking a 38-34 lead on Smalls’ 10-yard touchdown pass to Davis as time expired in the period.
The Tigers moved ahead 41-34 when Hersh made a 42-yard field goal with 9:02 remaining in the game.
Prairie View responded by tying the game at 41 on a 5-yard run from backup quarterback Jerry Lovelocke, who replaced starter De’Auntre Smiley in the fourth quarter, with 1:09 left.
The Panthers’ ensuing kickoff was short, and TSU took possession at its own 49-yard line with 1:05 remaining. Perkins-Loving rushed for 6 yards on the first carry but was taken down for a 1-yard loss on the next rush.
Prairie View, however, called a timeout with 13 seconds remaining, giving the Tigers one last shot.
Parker hit Daniel McKayhan for 7 yards to give TSU a first down and he spiked the ball to stop the clock. Parker then completed a pass Harry Brown, who stepped out of bounds after gaining 9 yards to stop the clock with four seconds left to give Hersh a chance at glory.
Moments later, Hersh was running around the field, joining his teammates in a wild celebration.
“It’s amazing,” Hersh said. “It feels like we just won the national championship.
“It shows other people in the SWAC and in our non-conference games that we won’t lie down.”
TSU Sports Information Director