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Golden Eagles close 2009 with winning mark, top Murray State 45-15

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Sophomore Dontey Gay rushed for 102 yards helping Tennessee Tech pile up 288 yards and four touchdowns on the ground on the way to a 45-14 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Murray State Saturday afternoon in Tucker Stadium.

With the victory in their season finale, the Golden Eagles (6-5/5-3 OVC) wrapped up their first winning record since 2004 and finished with an unbeaten mark of 5-0 at home. Tech tied for second place in the OVC, one game behind Eastern Illinois.

“We met all but one of our goals this season, and we were just one game away from winning the conference,” said head coach Watson Brown as he closed out his third year at the helm. “We finished with a winning record, we had a winning OVC record, we went undefeated at home and we won the state championship (Sgt. York Trophy).”

The Tech defense also came up with some big plays, forcing three turnovers by the Racers. Justin Vann (shown in photo) intercepted a pass while Corbin Miles and Caleb Mitchell each recovered fumbles.

Gay, the only player on the TTU roster from Kentucky, posted his second 100-yard game of the season, rushing for 102 yards on 10 carries. Sophomore Tremaine Hudson added 66 yards in 10 carries, senior Cedric Wilkerson had 54 yards in 10 carries and junior Henry Sailes (left) added 50 yards in six attempts.

Wilkerson and Sailes each scored touchdowns, and quarterback Cass Barnes rushed for two more scores.

The 288 rushing yards tied for the most by the Golden Eagles under Brown, matching the 288 yards gained against Concordia in 2007.

It was the most rushing yards by a Tech squad since the Golden Eagles pounded out 353 yards in a 52-14 win over UT Chattanooga on Oct. 9, 2004.

The Golden Eagles drove 65 yards in 10 plays from the opening kickoff to grab a 7-0 lead on a five-yard run by Sailes. Murray State answered two possessions later with a nine-play, 80-yard scoring drive as Charlie Jordan rushed the final nine for the touchdown to tie the score.

Tech moved 49 yards in seven plays to regain the lead on Sweeney’s touchdown pass to Olverson to make it 14-7 with 2:33 to play in the first quarter.

After the Golden Eagle defense halted Murray State on a fourth-and-two at the TTU 36-yard line early in the second, Sweeney and Barnes combined for a 51-yard, 11 play scoring drive. Barnes converted from the one for the score with four minutes to play in the half.

Barnes scored his second TD, a three-yard jaunt early in the third quarter to make it 28-7 to cap a 55-yard drive, and the lead grew to 35-7 four minutes later on a nine-yard TD pass from Sweeney to Waters, who was lining up at fullback for the first time this season after moving to linebacker for his final campaign.

Freshman placekicker Tim Donegan booted a 21-yard field goal with 1:09 left in the third quarter to make it 38-7, and Tech’s final touchdown came on a four-yard run by Wilkerson with 8:54 remaining. That drive was engineered by redshirt freshman quarterback Tre Lamb.

Murray State added a touchdown with 4:11 remaining as quarterback Casey Brockman hit Marcus Harris on a 10-yard scoring pass to complete a 56-yard, nine-play drive.

Wilkerson had the second-best game of his two seasons in a Tech uniform, and will miss playing.

“We’ve been playing this game since we were six years old, so it’s going to be tough to let go,” said the senior from Clarksville. “We felt like we played our best football at the end of the season, and that’s the goal. We had a good running attack today.”

Wilkerson came into the game with 14 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the first 10 games.

“Coming into the season I knew what my role was going to be” Wilkerson said. “Once we got inside the 10-yard line I knew coach Brown would call on me.”

Starting quarterback Lee Sweeney, one of nine seniors playing his final game for the Golden Eagles, passed for Tech’s other two scores. He connected with Alden Olverson on a five-yard TD in the first quarter that broke a 7-7 tie and put the Golden Eagles ahead to stay.

Sweeney also hit senior Derrian Waters with a nine-yard scoring play in the third quarter. For the game, Sweeney went 17-for-27 for 153 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn’t sacked and didn’t throw any interceptions. He finished his TTU career with school records for most passing yards (7,157), most yards of total offense (6,661) and most touchdown passes (49).

The four-year starter said it will be a few days before the seniors realize their careers are finished.

“It’s a bittersweet feeling,” Sweeney said. “I think more bitter than sweet. It will really sink in on Tuesday when we would normally be going to practice.”

He said his career numbers are a result of learning through his four years in a Golden Eagle uniform.

“When I was in high school we won on talent,” Sweeney said. “I couldn’t tell you the first thing about defense, or what the safeties were doing. I’ve learned so much here. I probably know more about defense than offense now.”

Brown complimented the leadership of his nine seniors – Sweeney, Waters, Wilkerson, Derek Dickerson, Brendon Fisher, Brandon Harris, Kelvin Quarles, Taron Ryce, Calvin Smith.

“These seniors did a great job of leading,” Brown said. “They were leading 70 young kids. We wanted them to leave something to build on, and they did that.”

Tech finished the game with 441 yards of total offense, including 288 on the ground and 153 through the air. Murray State rushed for 99 yards and passed for 122 for 221 yards of total offense.

Brockman finished 12-for-22 for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Harris had six catches 61 yards including the TD. Jordan rushed 19 times for 90 yards and one touchdown for the Racers (3-8/2-6 OVC).


Pregame Notes

* It's a beautiful day for football here at Tucker Stadium with the temperatures in the low 60s and sunny skies.
* The Golden Eagles have the opportunity to finish the season with a winning record for the first time since 2004 with a win today.
* Also, Tech can finish undefeated at Tucker Stadium this season with a victory. The Golden Eagles enter the game with a 4-0 mark at home in 2009.
* Tech is looking to avenge last year's loss to the Racers when Murray State won 51-21 in Murray, Ky.
* Murray won the cointoss and chose to defer. The Golden Eagles will receive the opening kick going north to south.

1st Quarter Notes

* Quarterback Lee Sweeney found wide receiver Colin Allen on a 4th and 5 play to keep the Golden Eagle opening drive alive. Three plays later, running back Henry Sailes found the end zone to give Tech the early lead. Sailes took the handoff designed to go up the middle, bounced it outside and found the corner of the end zone. That was the 12th scoring drive of 65 yards or more this season for the Golden Eagles. Tech leads, 7-0
* Tech picked off a pass on Murray State's first play from scrimmage to get the ball back. Justin Hilliard tipped the pass and Justin Vann grabbed the ball out of the air to give Tech the ball in Murray State territory.
* The Golden Eagles couldn't take advantage of their good field position and were forced to punt after a 3-and-out.
* The Racers drove 80 yards and put the ball in the end zone to tie the game with just less than five minutes remaining in the quarter. Tied, 7-7
* Murray State surprised Tech with an onside kick attempt and nearly recovered the attempt, but the ball squirted out of bounds before the Racers could gain possession so Tech will take the ball at the Murray 49 yard line.
* Sweeney hooked up with sophomore Alden Olverson in the right corner of the end zone to cap a seven-play, 49-yard scoring drive to put Tech ahead by a touchdown. Tech leads, 14-7

2nd Quarter Notes

* Tech stuffed Murray State's 4th and 2 attempt to take the ball over on downs. The Racers had moved the ball down the field on the ground but came up a yard short on the fourth down attempt.
* After driving the ball down to the Racer 34 yard line, Tech was forced to punt on a 4th and 9, and junior punter Jason Lennartz came through, pinning Murray State back on their own four yard line.
* The Golden Eagles forced a 3-and-out by the Racers and got the ball back just in their territory. Backup quarterback Cass Barnes came in to start the drive as Tech gave a few option looks. Sweeney and Barnes are continuing to alternate at quarterback this drive.
* Barnes kept the ball himself and found the end zone to cap off a 50 yard scoring drive for the Golden Eagles, most of which came on the ground. Tech leads, 21-7
* On the ensuing kickoff, Kelechi Ordu forced a Racer fumble on the return which was recovered by Tech's Corbin Miles. Tech has the ball on the Murray State 39 with a chance to go ahead by three scores.
* After Barnes was sacked to lose nine yards on the first play from scrimmage, Sweeney fumbled the ball on an attempted pitch and Murray State recovered to take over with just under three minutes remaining in the half.
* Tech got the ball right back as Murray State fumbled and Caleb Mitchell recovered for Tech. Murray State put a wide receiver in motion who was hit by the snap as it was going back to the quarterback, and Mitchell pounced on the loose ball.
* The Golden Eagles drive stalled at the MSU 31 yard line, kicker Tim Donegan's 48-yard attempt at the distance but was just wide left.

Halftime Notes

* Halftime leaders for the Golden Eagles include Henry Sailes with 50 yards on the ground on six carries, Sweeney with 90 yards through the air and one touchdown and Colin Allen with three receptions for 42 yards.
* Tech has converted on 4-of-9 on third down and 2-of-2 on fourth down so far.
* In the first half, Tech got in the red zone three times and have scored touchdowns each time.
* The Golden Eagles have controlled the ball for 17:42 compared to 12:18 for the Racers.

3rd Quarter Notes

* The Racers received the ball to open the second half, and the Golden Eagle defense forced three straight incompletions and a Murray State punt.
* Freshman Zack Zeigler made a big play for the Golden Eagles. After catching a screen pass, Zeigler out-ran most of the Racer defense for a 34-yard gain up the left sideline.
* Zeigler's reception set up Cass Barnes' second touchdown run of the game. Barnes ran around the left corner of the line and found the end zone from three yards out to put Tech ahead by three touchdowns. Tech leads, 28-7
* Tech is putting together a nice drive following a Murray State punt. Tim Benford caught a screen pass from Sweeney and dragged a Racer defender for seven yards then, then running backs Dontey Gay and Tremaine Hudson both broke off big runs to get down to the Murray State seven yard line.
* Derrian Waters just caught his first touchdown pass of the season in the final game of his Golden Eagle career. A linebacker for most of the season, Water was switched to fullback -- the position he played during the 2007 season -- and caught a seven-yard pass to put Tech up by 28 points. Tech leads, 35-7
* Tech's defense has really shut down the Racer offense in the second half. The Golden Eagles just forced another punt and will take over at their own 30 yard line.
* Gay just burst through the left side for a 40 yard dash down the left sideline. Tech has the ball at the 24 yard line of MSU.
* The Golden Eagles kept the ball on the ground and moved it to the Murray State five yard line before the drive stalled, and Tech settled for a 22-yard field goal by Tim Donegan. Tech leads, 38-7

4th Quarter

* Gay has 102 yards on 10 carries after a 25-yard dash around the right side to put Tech in Murray State territory. It's Gay's second 100-yard rushing game of this season.
* The Golden Eagles have moved the ball down the field completely on the ground, and senior Cedric Wilkerson finished the drive with his first touchdown of the game. Tech has rushed for 295 yards today, the most rushing yards this season. Before today, Tech's most rushing yards in a game came in the season opener against Pikeville when the Golden Eagles had 245 yards on the ground. Tech leads, 45-7
* Murray State drove down and scored on a four-yard touchdown pass with 4:11 remaining in the game. Tech leads, 45-14
* Head coach Watson Brown is giving everyone a chance to play today as the second and third strings have played much of this fourth quarter for the Golden Eagles.
* Looks like the Golden Eagles have this game wrapped up and will finish the season with a 6-5 record. Tech ends the season with a 5-3 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference to finish in second place in the OVC.