October 23, 2011

Golden Eagle football team to face Oregon Ducks in 2012 season

Oregon the latest in a long list of elite FBS opponents for the Golden Eagles

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech's chain of playing against the very best football teams in the nation will add another link next fall when coach Watson Brown's Golden Eagles face BCS powerhouse University of Oregon.

Tech will visit Eugene, Ore., to meet the Ducks on Saturday, Sept. 15, in Autzen Stadium. The addition of the game to Tech's 2012 schedule was announced Sunday by Brown and TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson.

"I think it will be a neat trip," Brown said. "Our kids haven't been west. We've traveled quite a bit, but we haven't been west. It's one of the very few places I've never been, so I'm looking forward to going. One of my coaches who was with me at UAB is the secondary coach at Oregon (John Neal), so I get to see him again."

Oregon has been among the nation's elite teams for nearly two decades, finishing in the Top 25 nationally for 16 consecutive years including four times in the Top 10 since 2000. Last year, after spending eight weeks ranked No. 1, Oregon wrapped up the year listed at No. 3 in the final poll. The Ducks posted a perfect 12-0 record before bowing in the BCS Championship game to Auburn, 22-19, on a field goal with no time remaining. The Ducks have compiled a 32-7 record over the past three years, including a 24-3 mark in Pac 10 play.

This season Oregon entered the year ranked No. 3 but dropped its opener to No. 1 LSU. The Ducks, currently ranked ninth, have since rattled off six consecutive wins including a 45-2 victory Saturday at Colorado to give coach Chip Kelly's squad a 6-1 record.

The Golden Eagles opened the 2011 season with a loss at Iowa, then won four in a row to climb to 19th in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) poll. Last week the Golden Eagles snapped a four-game win streak with a 42-40 loss to Tennessee State, and own a 4-2 overall record. Following an open weekend last Saturday (Oct. 22), Tech will visit Ohio Valley Conference leader Jacksonville State next Saturday (Oct. 29) with a chance to return to first place by beating the Gamecocks.

The fifth-year head coach said that, despite the challenge, his players look forward to playing Bowl Subdivision opponents.

"We haven't told our kids yet. We're right in the middle of the season so we haven't really talked about it, but they will be excited," Brown said. "They love these games. They enjoy going to different places and seeing the different atmospheres on that level."

In addition to the experience of facing some of the best college programs in the nation, Tech also receives a financial return for playing at Oregon.

"I don't think we would have grown in this program if we hadn't been playing these games," Brown said. "The dollars from these (FBS) games have given us the ability to do everything we've done here in the last few years with facilities, equipment, travel. Everything that we're doing, these are the dollars that we're spending. The weight room would not be here without these dollars. The facilities and everything we've done around these kids is making us better."

Oregon joins a long list of recent FBS opponents for the Golden Eagles, including Auburn, TCU, Arkansas, Louisville, Georgia and Iowa in the past five years.

"They're not easy games, but they certainly provide a highlight game for our program," said Mark Wilson, TTU Director of Athletics. "The last few years, we've had the opportunity to compete against teams from the Big 12, the Big 10, the SEC, the Big East, and now an opportunity to compete against a team from the Pac 12 conference.

"This game gives us a presence on the West Coast, and we hope some of our West Coast alums can make the trek up to Oregon to see their Golden Eagles up there," Wilson said.

Wilson echoed Brown's sentiment that the Golden Eagle players enjoy the challenge.

"Everybody from our coaches to our fans and supporters are excited about playing against these teams, but I think it's the players who are the most excited about it," Wilson said. "I know for coach Brown and his staff, they play these games with a little bit of trepidation, but the players really love the opportunity to play up, and play against this level."

Autzen Stadium in Eugene was enlarged in 2002 to 54,000 seats and the Ducks always draw sellouts. In ranking the Top 10 toughest college football stadiums to play in the nation, one website blog (incahoots.wordpress.com), listed Oregon's Autzen Stadium as No. 1, just ahead of LSU, Clemson, Washington and Florida.

Ticket information and the starting time for the game will be announced later.