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Golden Eagles fight their way back to claim 21-14 win at Jacksonville State

Tech hosts Murray State for Homecoming next Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Give game balls to the Golden Eagle defense and special teams for their decisive roles in No. 19 Tennessee Tech’s improbable 21-14 victory at No. 13 Jacksonville State Saturday afternoon.

And, while you’re at it, the offense can have one, too.

Even though the offensive unit sputtered through most of the first half, they found their groove in time to help earn the come-from-behind victory and push the Golden Eagles (5-2/4-1 OVC) into a three-way tie for first place in the Ohio Valley Conference. It marked the second year in a row that Tech has downed the league-leading Gamecocks (5-3/4-1 OVC).

Tech, JSU and Eastern Kentucky are tied for the top spot in the OVC standings with identical 4-1 records. Tech returns home to host Murray State next weekend for Homecoming, then visits Eastern Kentucky the following week.

Junior quarterback Tre Lamb was 15-for-18 for 168 yards, and his poise got the offense back on track. Junior Adam Urbano led the rushing game, going for 95 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown, while Dontey Gay added 36 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdowns.

The Tech defense, which featured several headliners, held JSU’s Washaun Ealey to 68 yards on 16 carries. Calvin Middleton added 69 yards on 16 tries.  Quarterback Coty Blanchard was 17-for-22 for 175 yards and one touchdown, and also rushed 14 times for 31 yards and one TD.

Freshman Austin Tallant topped the tackle chart for Tech with 12 stop, while Jamere Hogue made nine tackles including a quarterback sack, and recovered the fumble in the closing minutes that sealed the win for the Golden Eagles. Corey Watson had eight tackles, and it was his jarring tackles that forced the fumble as the Gamecocks were driving for a potential tying score.

The win appeared improbable during the first half when the JSU defense dominated and the home team bolted out to a quick 7-0 lead with a 77-yard, game-opening scoring drive.  Blanchard found Jerry Slota in the back of the end zone for a four-year score.

Beginning with a quarterback sack on Tech’s first offensive play, the Golden Eagles just couldn’t move the ball. In fact, the Golden Eagles didn’t get a single first down in the first quarter, and never crossed into JSU territory.

However, the Tech defense settled in and held JSU scoreless the rest of the first half. The biggest play came on fourth-and-two at the TTU 36 after Jacksonville State had marched from its own 32. Blanchard was stuffed by Marcus Edwards for a gain of one yard, and the offense used that play to springboard itself back into the contest.

After 27 minutes with zero yard of total offense, the offense responded on the arm of Lamb. He connected with Tim Benford and Zack Ziegler on back-to-back strikes and Tech moved quickly downfield, setting up a one-yard touchdown push by Gay that tied the game, 7-7, before halftime.

For the score to be tied didn’t seem possible when viewing the game stats. JSU held the ball nearly 20 of the first 30 minutes, was 8-for-13 on third down conversions, and held a 172-62 edge in total offense. Tech had minus 10 (-10) rushing yards at the intermission.

Lamb and the offense came out of the dressing room to open the second half and put together an impressive, 11-play, 72-yard scoring drive that took nearly six minutes off the game clock. Urbano accounted for 37 yards on the drive, including a five-yard TD to put Tech on top, 14-7.

Jacksonville State bounced right back with 70-yard, 13-play scoring drive that knotted the contest once more, 14-14. Banchard raced 13 yards for the touchdown with 2:55 to play in the third quarter.

The Golden Eagles put together the eventual game-winning drive on their next possession, beginning from their own 22. Facing third-and-12, Lamb it Benford for a 13-yard gain, then Henry Rodgers for an 11-yard pickup. After switching directions with the end of the quarter, Lamb heaved on deep that Ryan Tilghman fought to make a leaping grab and turn into a 43-yard play. Tilghman was moved from quarterback to receiver four weeks ago when Benford was missing snaps due to leg cramps. His catch set Tech up with a first-and-goal at the 10, and Gay carried three times for all the yards and his 12th touchdown of the year.

The Tech offense also chewed up more than five minutes later in the quarter with a nine-play drive before Nick Campbell’s 42-yard punt backed JSU to its own 13 with 3:28 to play. Campbell punted five times and four were downed inside the Gamecock 20.

JSU moved from its own 13 to the Tech 30, but that’s where Watson and Hogue (No. 5 in photo at left) came up with the game’s only turnover. After catching a swing pass, Middleton was hit hard by Watson and lost the handle, and Hogue recovered in front of the Tech bench.

Trying to run out the final 1:25, Tech gave the ball to Urbano and he broke off a 34-yard run on third-and six.

Tickets for the Homecoming game against Murray State will be on sale all week at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center (8 a.m to 12 p.m. and 1-4 p.m.), or by calling (931) 372-3940.

Pregame Notes
* Today's game is Homecoming for Jacksonville State.
* Weather for the game appears ideal, with temps in the low 60s and clear, sunny skies. There is a little bit of a breeze blowing around on the the field, which could affect the kicking and passing games.
* Tech is dressed in all white with purple numbers and trim. JSU s wearing red jerseys and helmets and white pants.
* JSU owns a 9-4 edge in the all-time series against Tech, but the Golden Eagles rallied for a 35-27 win in Cookeville last year.
* The Gamecocks are 3-0 at home this year. Tech is 2-1 on the road.
*Tech (4-2/3-1 OVC) enters the game ranked 19th in the FCS Coach's Poll and 25th in The Sports Network/Fathead.com poll. JSU (5-2/4-0 OVC) is ranked 13th and 14th.
* Tim Benford can set a couple of school records. He needs one TD catch to tie Larry Shipp's career mark of 27. He needs two receptions to match Shipp's career record of 195.
* Adam Urbano needs just 15 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for his career, including two seasons at Georgia Southern.

First Quarter Notes
* Tra'Darius Goff comes up with a solid tackle on the opening kickoff at the JSU 23. Gamecocks convert three straight third down plays and have marched to the Tech 25. Another third down and Calvin Middleton rushes up the middle to the seven, first-and-goal. Coty Blanchard faces heavy rush by Corey Watson and floats a pass to the back of the end zone, where Jerry Slota is open to make the catch for the touchdown. After the PAT, the Gamecocks lead 7-0 with 7:56 to play in the quarter. The scoring drive went 77 yards in 15 plays and lasted 7:04.
* JSU kickoff is short, and Cody Forbes fields it at the 27. He returns it to the 41 where the Golden Eagle offense gets onto the field for the first time. On first down, Tre Lamb is tracked down and sacked for an eight-yard loss. Third-and-10 and Lamb hits Charlie Stevens for five, so Tech comes up short on its first possession and Nick Campbell comes in to punt. He hangs it very high, and Bonner makes a fair catch at the JSU 14 after a 40-yard kick.
* Third down pass is dropped, and Tech will get the ball back on a punt. Short punt by Blanchard, so Garrett clears out and the Gamecocks get the bounce. It rolls for a 47-yard kick to the TTU 37.
* Third and three and some confusion in lining up, so Tech calls its second timeout of the first quarter. Pass to Olverson and he is bumped before the ball gets there for pass interference and a TTU first down a the 50.
* Mishandled snap and Lamb recovers for s 15-yard loss. Second-and-25. Tech gets back to close to the original line of scrimmage before Campbell is called on for his second punt. It goes out of bounds at the JSU 18, a 35-yard kick with no return.
* TTU defense holds three-and-out, so Blanchard will punt to Garrett, standing at his own 42. He makes a fair catch at the 50, the second time Tech has been to midfield, but the Golden Eagles did not cross into JSU territory as the first quarter comes to a close.

Second Quarter Notes
* JSU defense holds and Campbell punts. Fair catch at the JSU 16.
* Jamere Hogue sacks Blanchard for loss of eight back to the 25. Marcus Edwards forces Blanchard from the pocket and hurries the pass, which is short of the first down. A 35-yard Blanchard punt to Garrett and he returns it 14 yards to the TTU 41 with 9:44 to go in the half. A nice bit of running by Garrett. Maybe that's the spark the Golden Eagles need to get untracked?
*Perfectly thrown ball over the middle by Lamb but it's dropped. Next play, Lamb sacked. Third-and-29. Time to punt.
* JSU faces fourth-and-one at the TTU 36 and lines up to go for it. Tech calls timeout with 3:18 to play in the half. Blanchard fakes to two backs, and keeps. Marcus Edwards makes the stop SHORT of the first down. Tech takes over on downs at the Golden Eagle 35.
* Golden Eagle offenese has floundered -- time for the "O" to get moving!
* Completion over the middle for 11 to Benford, followed by a 16-yard pass to Zack Ziegler. After an incompletion, Lamb rifles one down the middle for 27 yards to Ziegler at the JSU 11. Nine more to Benford, then Lamb scrambles to the one, first-and-goal with 1:25 to play. The completion to Benford gives him 195, tying the career record set by Larry Shipp.
* Dontey Gay powers over the goal line for a touchdown, his league-leading 11th of the year. Zach Sharp's PAT is good to tie the game at 7-7. Tech's scoring drive covered 65 yards in seven plays in 2:08.
* Excellent coverage on the kickoff, but a facemask penatly moves it to the JSU 35. Big first down play into Tech territory gets the ball to the TTU 43, but Edwards SACKS Blanchard for an eight-yard loss at the JSU 49. JSU calls its third timeout with 36 seconds left. Dwight Evans knocks Blanchard out of bounds after a one-yard gain, forcing JSU to punt from the 47 with 19 seconds left. Ball goes out of bounds at the TTU seven with 11 seconds to go.
* Lamb will take a knee and clock runs out on the first half.
* First half stats are really lopsided in favor of JSU, but the Golden Eagles are tied, 7-7 at the break. Really, how did that happen? The Golden Eagle defense, which look shaky on the first drive of the game, stepped up and held the rest of the way and the offense finally connected for a scoring drive. That's the beauty of this game -- hang in there, hang in there, hang in there, and something good can happen.

Third Quarter Notes
* Adam Urbano takes a pitch from Lamb and races 17 yards to the TTU 47, but Lamb was shaken up on a hit after making the toss. Downfied, Demetrous Garrett is down with an injury. Garrett tended to, appears okay. Play resumes.
* Another nice run from Urbano to the JSU 36 for a first down. Fourth-and-three at the 28 and Tech goes for it...Lamb sneaks ahead for the first down at the 25. Give is to Ziegler sweeping right side for 16, down to the five.
* Urbano powers in for his first TTU career touchdown, and a 14-7 Golden Eagle lead following Sharo's PAT kick. Tech went 72 yards in 11 plays, with a drive that lasted 5:42.
* The Gamecocks respond with a long scoring drive to tie it, 14-14. Coty Blanchard runs for the 13-yard touchdown that caps a 13-play, 70-yard march that was just over six minutes (6:03).
* Fitting of a championship-level game, both teams look like they're ready to fight to the finish. It promises to be an exciting fourth quarter.
*Uuuggh. Lamb sacked. Third-and-12. Complete to Benford who weaves through traffic for a FIRST DOWN, GOLDEN EAGLES.Now Henry Rogers takes a pass 10 yards for another first down at the 44.
* End of the quarter, all tied up and the Golden Eagle offense moving the chains......

Fourth Quarter Notes
* Lamb airs it out, COMPLETE to Ryan Tilghman for a 43-yard gain to the JSU 10. First-and-goal. Gay crashes down to the two. Gay to the one. Third-and-goal from the one. To the right behind Charlie Stevens and Doug Page, and the right side of the line....Gay IS INTO THE END ZONE. Touchdown. Sharp's kick makes it a 21-14 Golden Eagle lead with 13:06 to play. Tech's scoring drive, featuring the 43-yard pass to Tilghman, was nine plays and covered 78 yards in 4:44.
* Okay, Tech defense. Get a stop. The offense looks in sync.
*Blanchard is making a lot of plays for JSU. He goes four yards for a first down, then connects with Alan Bonner for a 24-yard pass completion to the TTU 42.
* No fooling Will Johnson. He stays home on the reverse and catches the ball carrier for an eight-yard loss. Fourth-and-10 and Blanchard punts, getting it out of bounds at the six-yard line.
* Tech offense takes over with 8:48 to play at the six. Third-and-four and Gay breaks tackles for a 10-yard gain. Third-and-three, Lamb hits Cody Matthews for a 13-yard gain and first down at the 41. Big defensive play by Francis Duncan, tackles Urbano for three-yard loss. Third-and-10. Pass to Benford only good for four yards, so Campbell to punt. High kick, no return, fair catch at the JSU 13. Clock has 3:28 to play. Tech defense can win this thing with a stand right now!
*Ealey for 14 yard run up the middle and a first down at the 27. Pass complete to Alan Bonner, out of bounds with 2:31 to play. Gain to the 48. Another completion to the sidelines, first-and-10 at the 39. Ealey carries to the Tech 30 with 1:41 to play.
* THERE IT IS. Complete to Middleton but he's hit and FUMBLES and TECH recovers. Corey Watson causes the fumble and Jamere Hogue recovers.
* Tech ball with 1:25 to play and the seven-point lead.
* Urbano carries for two and a JSU timeout with 1:20 to play. Third-and-six and Urbano goes for 34 up the middle.