Golden Eagles stun No. 4 Gamecocks with huge fourth quarter comeback

Golden Eagles stun No. 4 Gamecocks with huge fourth quarter comeback

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tim Benford looked into Cass Barnes' eyes on the sidelines and told him to believe.

Down 24-7 in the fourth quarter, Barnes heard the advice and went to work. The senior quarterback, who has spent most of his career in the shadows, emerged into the spotlight by leading Tennessee Tech to the final 28 points in the contest as the Golden Eagles closed the 2010 season with a thrilling, 35-24 upset victory over No. 4 Jacksonville State Saturday in Tucker Stadium.

Barnes accounted for 359 yards of total offense in the contest, 213 of it in the final period. He was 19-for-28 passing for 271 yards and rushed 18 times for 88 net yards.

Tech's defense, too, stood tall in the final quarter. After the Gamecocks (9-2/6-2 OVC) had held the ball for 10:34 in marching through a 21-play, 95-yard scoring drive, the Golden Eagle defense took control. After yielding 346 yards through three quarters and three plays in the fourth, the Tech defense allowed just 37 more yards over the final 14 minutes.

Tech finished the year with a 5-6 overall mark and a 4-4 record in the OVC.

Five different Golden Eagles achieved double figures in tackles as Tech swarmed to the ball on every play. Jake McIntosh topped the charts with a career-high 15 stops, while Richmond Tooley had 11 tackles and broke up four passes, including three key stops in the fourth quarter.

Kelechi Ordu (11), Justin Hilliard (10) and Dustin Dillehay (10), three of the 11 seniors who were playing their final game at Tech, all hit double digits. Hilliard also blocked a field goal try and registered two tackles-for-loss.

JSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a two-yard TD run by Calvin Middleton and a six-yard scoring pass from Marques Ivory to Cory Freeman midway through the second quarter. The first capped an 80-yard scoring drive, and the second came after the Gamecocks recovered a Tech fumble at the TTU six-yard line.

Tech gave up another fumble at its own 35, but the Gamecocks didn't capitalize, missing a 36-yard field goal with 5:24 to play.

From there, Barnes marched the Golden Eagles 80 yards in just seven plays. The big gain was a 23-yard run by Barnes, plus a couple of penalties on JSU. With 2:41 to play, Jocques Crawford powered into the end zone for a five yard TD to make it 14-7.

The Gamecocks, who have shown a penchant for last-minute success this year, drove 49 yards in just two minutes to set up a 37-yard field goal by James Esco for a 17-7.

Barnes hit Benford for 16 yards and then rushed for 11 more, setting up a 49-yard field goal attempt by Matthew Barker on the final play of the half, but the kick was wide left.

Each team had one possession in the third quarter that led to punts. The Gamecocks had a big return on Tech's punt midway in the half, but it was called back by a penalty and JSU took over at its own five-yard line.

Ivory directed his team through a magnificent drive, converting three third-down plays and a fourth-down while moving 95 yards in 10:34. The third quarter came to an end, and the Gamecocks continued the drive in the fourth, culminating in a 13-yard TD pass from Ivory to Justin Howard. The PAT made it 24-7 with 13:40 left in the contest.

And from that point on, it was all Tech.

Barnes hit Sailes for 19 and Benford for 10, then raced 17 yards to the JSU 34. Another 13-yard run by Barnes to the seven set up Crawford's second TD of the night, a seven-yard blast that cut the JSU lead to 24-14 with 11:33 to play. The 80-yard scoring drive took seven plays and lasted 2:14.

After getting one first down, the Gamecocks were halted at their own 47 as Tooley knocked down a third-down pass, and Tech took over at its own 16 following a punt.

This time, the Golden Eagles marched 84 yards in only eight plays, taking 2:37 to reach the end zone. Barnes hit Benford for 16 yards, Doug Page for 19 and Benford for 15 more to the JSU 16. From there, Barnes connected over the middle with Zack Ziegler and the sophomore bulled his way into the end zone to make it 24-21 with 6:27 remaining.

Ordu, Dillehay and Tooley came up with defensive plays to force JSU to punt in three plays and Coty Blanchard's kick hugged the sidelines before going out of bounds at the TTU 12, where Barnes & Co. began with just 4:52 to play.

Ziegler took a pass for 23 yards and Benford grabbed a toss for 35 more yards, followed by an 11-yard run from Crawford. A seven-yard run by Barnes and a 10-yard blast from Crawford put Tech at the JSU two. Freshman Cody Forbes charged into the end zone for his first career touchdown, lifting Tech into the lead. Barker's PAT made it a four-point lead, 28-24, with 3:04 remaining.

Again, the Golden Eagle defense rose to the occasion, forcing three straight incomplete passes by Ivory. On fourth-and-10, Tooley broke up the final pass attempt and Tech took over at the Gamecock 11. Three plays later, Crawford scored his third TD of the game from the four and the PAT made it 35-24.

Tooley broke up two more passes and the Golden Eagle offense got the ball back, where Barnes took a knee and the Golden Eagles finished off the comeback win.

Tech finished with 455 yards of offense, getting 184 on the ground and 271 through the air. JSU had 408 yards of offense, with 217 rushing and 191 passing.

Crawford had 54 yards on 14 carries and three touchdowns. Henry Sailes finished with 107 all-purpose yards, including 30 on the ground, 25 receiving and 52 on kickoff returns.

Benford registered his sixth career 100-yard game receiving, catching eight passes for 114 yards. Ziegler grabbed five balls for 77 yards.

Middleton topped JSU with 120 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries. Ivory was 17-for-35 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Jeffrey Cameron was JSU's top receiver with five catches for 96 yards.

On defense, Jason Horton topped the Gamecocks with 10 tackles, while Monte Lewis had seven stops, two quarterback sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Rodney Garrott forced two fumbles and recovered one along with six tackles.

Pregame Notes

* Jacksonville State can win a share of the Ohio Valley Conference title and clinch the league's automatic invitation into the FCS playoffs with a win over Tech.

* It's Senior Day for the Golden Eagles, who will recognize their 11 seniors in pregame ceremonies. The 11 players have a combined 48 years of experience on the Golden Eagle roster.

* JSU has won five in a row over Tech including a 55-28 victory last year in Alabama. Tech's last win over the Gamecocks was in 2004 when the Golden Eagles claimed a 16-13 decision.

* The game is the OVC TV Game of the Week on Wazoo.

* Senior Cass Barnes is listed as the starter at quarterback. He has started the last two games in place of injured Tre Lamb. Last week Barnes led Tech to 554 yards of total offense, the most by a Tech team in Watson Brown's four seasons at the helm.