Tech vs. JSU: Ranked teams tangle for Ohio Valley Conference lead

TTU game notes vs. Jacksonville State (PDF)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- It's the biggest football game of the year so far for Tennessee Tech as the Golden Eagles try to regain first place in the Ohio Valley Conference Saturday with a visit to league-leader Jacksonville State. Coach Watson Brown's team is making a bid to win the league crown for the first time in 36 years, and a road victory at JSU would be a giant step in that direction.

With three more games still left on the schedule after the visit to Jacksonville, Brown isn't putting all of the team's eggs in this particular basket -- but he will admit that the winner Saturday has an advantage.

Jacksonville State has scheduled its Homecoming festivities around this game, aiming for the added "oommph" from a large, noisy crowd to help exact some revenge from a Tech squad that stunned the Gamecocks in last year's regular season finale. Ahead 24-7 in the fourth quarter, JSU saw Tech storm back for a 35-24 victory in Tucker Stadium, costing JSU the OVC title.

This year, Jax State is 4-0 in conference play while Tech is one of two teams (along with Eastern Kentucky) just one game back at 3-1 in the league standings. JSU leads the all-time series against Tech, 9-4, including seven of 10 since the Gamecocks joined the OVC. The last time Tech claimed a victory in Jacksonvile was a 35-27 contest behind a record-setting passing performance by Grant Swallows in 2001.

Both teams come into the battle ranked in the Top 25 among Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams. JSU is 13th in one poll and 14th in another following a 38-14 loss at FBS Kentucky last week. The Golden Eagles are listed 19th in the FCS Coach's Poll and 25th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com poll after an idle week.

Tech's offense has featured three standout players this year in quarterback Tre Lamb, receiver Tim Benford and runningback Dontey Gay.

Lamb posted his first career 300-yard passing game two weeks ago against Tennessee State, throwing for 348 yards and two touchdowns. For the year, Lamb has passed for 1,448 yards and 10 touchdowns, and has climbed to 10th in career passing yards with 2,535. He ranks second in the OVC in total offense, third in passing and fourth in passing efficiency.

Gay leads the OVC in rushing, scoring and all-purpose yards. With three 100-yard rushing games and one 100-yard receiving game, Gay is averaging 110.5 yard per game on the ground and 142.2 all-purpose yards per game. He has climbed to 10th in career rushing with 1,771 yards, and is listed 11th in all-purpose yards with 2,775.

Benford, meanwhile, is on the brink of breaking a cpuple more school records. He will tie the school mark (of 27) with one more touchdown catch. He will tie the school record (of 195) with two receptions. And, he needs 152 yards to break the school standard for career receiving yards. Benford enters the game ranked first in the OVC in both receptions per game and receiving yards.

Tech is also anxious for the healthy return of junior runningback Adam Urbano, who played in the first game of the year but sat out the next four games. He returned to limited action against Tennessee State, and appears ready to make an impact this week against the Gamecocks. Including two seasons at Georgia Southern, Urbano enters the contest needing just 15 rushing yards to reach 1,000 in his college career.

On defense, Corey Watson leads the OVC in interceptions and ranks 11th nationally. He has returned two of his three picks for touchdowns. Meanwhile, senior linebacker Jake McIntosh is the team leader in career tackles with 213, and senior cornerback Richmond Tooley needs five stops at JSU to also top the 200-tackle plateau. Tooley leads the team this year and seventh in the OVC with 49 total stops.

On special teams, freshman placekicker Zach Sharp ranks first in the OVC in field goal percentage and PAT kicking, and is third in both kick scoring and field goals per game.

The game at JSU can be viewed on ESPN3 or via the OVCsports.TV video webstream. Fans can listen to the action on the Golden Eagle Sports Network, with Roger Ealey, Buddy Pearson and Brandon Goodwin calling the action. Fans can also follow a live, in-game blog on TTUsports.com.

Fans are also encouraged to follow Tech on Twitter @TTUGoldenEagles, including in-game tweets.



Records in 2011: Tennessee Tech is 4-2 overall / 3-1 Ohio Valley Conference
                                Jacksonville State is 5-2 overall /4-0 Ohio Valley Conference
Last Week: Tennessee Tech was idle; Jacksonville State lost at Kentucky, 38-14
Last Year: Tech won, 35-24
Series Record: JSU leads, 9-4
National Rankings: JSU is 13th/14th; Tennessee Tech is 19th/25th
Tech Radio:
Golden Eagle Sports Network (Roger Ealey, Buddy Pearson, Brandon Goodwin)
      also Teamline Direct (Dial 216-502-3200 / enter team code 0654) - $5 per game
Internet: www.Magic985.com for audio stream
Live Stats: www.JSUgamecocksports.com
Web sites:
      Tennessee Tech - www.TTUsports.com
      Jacksonville State - www.jsugamecocksports.com
Social Media: TTU Sports (Facebook); @TTUGoldenEagles (Twitter)