Three offensive linemen among those considered
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech is bidding for an Ohio Valley Conference football championship in 2011, and heads into Saturday night's 7 p.m. contest against Tennessee State with a four-game winning streak and a perfect 3-0 record as co-leader in the league standings.
If coach Watson Brown's team remains unbeaten in the OVC and downs the visiting Tigers, odds are strong that a bevy of "unsung heroes" will play pivotal roles in the victory -- just as they have in the first five games of the year.
"We're a team made up of many unsung heroes," Brown said in the preseason. "These guys are all willing to do whatever it takes, play whatever role we ask of them, for this team to be successful. From week to week, we don't know who will step up and make the plays that win games, but there are a lot of guys who are capable of doing that."
There are certainly some headliners on the team, including offensive standouts Tre Lamb, Tim Benford and Dontey Gay, who all rank at or near the top of the league in numerous categories. But, even Gay -- who leads the OVC in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards -- has stepped forward. He came into the year listed second on the depth chart behind junior newcomer Adam Urbano. When Urbano was injured in the first game of the season, Gay took over and has been simply phenomenal.
The list of unsung heroes is long, too. Ask any coach or player, and chances are you will get different answers.
Gay points to a pair of offensive players, senior guard Slade Adams (number 73 in the photo above) and back Zack Ziegler. Adams is a junior who is in his third season as a starter, helping to give the Golden Eagles an veteran and efficient offensive line. Ziegler ranks fourth on the team with 12 catches for 148 yards and one touchdown. Last year at TSU, Ziegler turned a short reception into a touchdown when he bulled his way into the end zone. Two weeks ago, in Tech's win at UT Martin, he led Tech with six receptions for 77 yards, including the game-wining, 14-yard catch in the final miute.
"Everybody knows Slade," Gay said. "He's a guy not to be messed with. That's a guy I love to run behind. And Zack, even though he doesn't get the ball very much, when he does get the ball he always makes something happen."
Tim Benford leads the OVC in receiving yards and is second in catches per game. He's inching closer to school career records in both categories, this year making 32 catches for 492 yards and four touchdowns. His two picks for unsung heroes come from both sides of the ball.
On offense, Benford names Tech's other starting guard, Scott Schweitzer, and on defense he lists senior linebacker Jake McIntosh. Schweitzer was a preseason all-OVC selection, and compliments Adams on the other side of the center in anchoring the offensive line. McIntosh is the starter at an inside linebacker position. He ranks fifth on the team in total tackles this season with 28, andalso has one pass interception and one fumble recovery.
"I'd say Jake McIntosh and Scott Schweitzer," Benford explains. "Both of them are such a big part of our team. Scott's been here three years, and he gets aggressive on game days. I know we can always count on him, but offensive linemen don't get much credit. On defense, Jake is always round the ball. He makes things happen and he knows how to play."
Quarterback Tre Lamb has also earned his share of headlines this season, leading the OVC in passing efficiency and ranking among conference leaders in passing and total offense. He has thrown for 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. No surprise, but he selects junior center Michael Baker as an unsung hero on offense, while pointing out long snapper Jordan Adams on special teams.
"Number one, it would have to be Michael Baker," Lamb said. "He doesn't get a lot of credit. He doesn't talk that much, but all through off-season he's probably the hardest-working guy we've got. He leads the offenensive line each and every week by example. He's does things right, and he's probably the strongest guy we've got."
Tech's special teams have been effective during the past three years with Adams snapping the ball on punts, field goals and PAT attempts. He's always one of the first downfield on punt coverage, and his play has drawn "unsung" recognition from Lamb.
"Second, I'd say Jordan Adams. He's probably the best snapper in
the conference. Nobody knows who the snapper is until he messes up.
I'd like to give a shout out to him," Lamb said. "He's done a great
job ever since I've been here. He's really getting the job done on
Opinions were widespread on naming unsung heroes. Some of the others who received the most comments include punter Nick Campbell, fullback Charlie Stevens, freshman rover Austin Tallant, defensive tackle Travis Adkins, and cornerback Corey Watson. Come Saturday night, any of those players -- or anyone on the roster, for that matter -- could be the guy to lift Tech to it's fifth victory in a row.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Magic 98.5 Tailgate Park opens at 4 p.m. for pregame festivities. At halftime, both the Tech and TSU Marching Bands will perform. FOllowing the game is the final fireworks display of the season.
On the field, expect a great game with another round of "unsung heroes" for the Golden Eagles.
Tickets for the game are on sale online, or at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940. The ticket windows at the stadium will open Saturday at 6 p.m.