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CHARLESTON, Ill. - The Tennessee Tech football team rallied froma 20-point second-half deficit, but couldn't overcome fiveturnovers, as the Golden Eagles fell to No. 25 Eastern Illinois23-15 in Charleston, Ill, Saturday.
"We played one of the best teams in the league on the road, andwe were right there with a chance to win at the end of the game,"Tennessee Tech head coach Watson Brown said. "I'm proud of us forhanging in there, I thought we showed a lot of resilience, but wehave got to play a lot better than this at home or on the road."
Colin Allen led Tech with six receptions for 80 yards and atouchdown. Dontey Gay got 46 of his 64 rushing yards on one carry,but Tech's running game never got off the ground as the GoldenEagles rushed for just 78 yards.
Lee Sweeney completed 19-of-46 passes for 198 yards with twotouchdowns and two interceptions in the game. Gay caught fourpasses for 34 yards, and Henry Sailes, who played for the firsttime since Sept. 19 after suffering an ankle injury, had threecatches for 23 yards.
Taron Ryce put together a great performance defensively for theGolden Eagles. He finished with eight tackles, including one sack.He also had an interception, three pass breakups, and hurried EIUquarterback Jake Christensen to force an incompletion on a keythird-down play in the fourth quarter.
"We just had to go out there and play our game and try to takeaway the things that they like to do," Ryce said. "We knew we hadto get some turnovers to stay in the game. EIU has a great team, inorder to stay in the game we had to get the ball back for ouroffense."
Kelechi Ordu led Tech with 12 tackles, including 1.5tackles-for-loss. Caleb Mitchell had an interception for the GoldenEagles.
Neither team took particularly good care of the football in thegame. Both quarterbacks threw two interceptions, and the GoldenEagles fumbled six times, losing three of them.
"We just didn't play well," Brown said. "It was by far our worstgame of the year in all phases of the game. We didn't take care ofthe ball. We're not capable of winning when we do that."
EIU got the scoring started early when a Tech's Tremain Hudsonlost a fumble on the second play of the game, setting the Panthersup at Tech's 34 yard-line. They would convert that opportunity intoa field goal, and take an early 3-0 lead. EIU would find theendzone late in the first quarter when Christensen hooked up withChris Wright for a touchdown.
The Panthers were able to move the ball throughout much of thefirst half, but had to settle for three more field goal attempts,two of which were blocked and one that missed short. Travis Adkinsblocked one attempt, and Tech got credit as a team for the secondblock.
On the first drive of the second half the Panthers would add totheir lead, going on a 12-play 56-yard touchdown drive that ate upover six minutes of clock and gave them a 17-0 lead. EIU would adda field goal to go up 20-0 before Tech began its comeback.
The Golden Eagles got their break after Jason Lenartz's second69-yard punt of the game pinned the Panthers at their own two-yardline. On the next play EIU running back Mon Williams was tripped upin his own endzone for a safety, making the score 20-2. Lenartzpunted five times and averaged 50.2 yards-per-punt.
The Golden Eagles would take advantage on their next possession,scoring a touchdown when Sweeney found Alden Olverson for a 29-yardtouchdown pass. A missed PAT made the score 20-8.
Tech's defense held, and the Golden Eagles got the ball back,and found the endzone again. This time Sweeney connected with Allenfor an 11-yard touchdown pass which capped a six-play, 70-yarddrive that took only a minute and 43 seconds off the clock. Thatscore put Tech behind 20-15 with 3:54 to play.
After EIU added a field goal Maurico Wallace took the ensuingkickoff 81 yards to EIU's 18 yard-line with Tech needing atouchdown and a two-point conversion to tie. But after completing afour-yard pass to Hudson, Tech ran out of downs, allowing thePanthers to run off the final 12 seconds off the clock.
The Golden Eagles fall to 3-3 overall and 2-2 in Ohio ValleyConference play. Tech will return home for the next two weeks asSoutheast Missouri will provide the opposition for the GoldenEagles on Oct. 24, before Tennessee State visits Cookeville forTech's Homecoming on Oct. 31. For ticket information contact theTennessee Tech ticket office at 372-3940.