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Golden Eagles want first playoff experience to last beyond Saturday

Download or read Tennessee Tech game notes (PDF)
Download or read the Central Arkansas game notes (PDF)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- There was a celebration on Overall Field last Saturday when Tennessee Tech beat Austin Peay, 49-7, to capture the team's first Ohio Valley Conference championship in 36 years. Fans streamed onto the turf to join the Golden Eagles, who also earned the school's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision national playoffs.

With a 7-3 overall record, coach Watson Brown's team earned a share of the title and the league bestowed numerous honors on Tuesday with the all-OVC teams and other major conference awards.

But, all of that is history, according to the veteran head coach who told his team to get ready for the next game and not dwell on this year's success. Judging from the work the team is putting in this week in preparation for Central Arkansas, Brown's message got through loud and clear.

Central Arkansas earned an at-large bid into the playoffs after a sensational regular season which ended with an 8-3 overall record and seven-game winning streak. The Bears were 6-1 in the Southland Conferece, losing only to No. 1 ranked Sam Houston State.

Saturday's game will be the first meeting between Tech and UCA on the gridiron.

The game will be televised live on ESPN3, and the broadcast can be heard on the Golden Eagle Sports Network. LIve stats will be provided by Tech and available at www.NCAA.com.

Both head coaches -- Watson Brown of Tennessee Tech and Clint Conque of Central Arkansas -- were named among the 20 finalists for the 2011 Eddie Robinson Award.

UCA comes into the contest ranked 15th in both The Sports Network poll and the FCS Coaches Poll. The Golden Eagles are 20th in the FCS Coaches Poll and 21st in The Sports Network poll.

Each team is led by a dynamic quarterback.

For the Bears, senior Nathan Dick has completed 64.3 percent of his passes (209-for-333) for 2,691 yards and 28 touchdowns. Dick is a 6-foot-4 transfer from the University of Arkansas. He has rushed 55 times for 100 yards, and is averaging 279 yards of total offense per game.

Tech is led by junior Tre Lamb, who has completed 64.7 percent of his passes (174-for-269) for 2,051 yards and 15 touchdowns. Lamb is a 5-foot-9 signal-caller who has spent all three of his seasons under Brown's direction at Tech. He has rushed 102 times for 205 yards and is averaging 225.6 yards per game of total offense. With six rushing touchdowns, Lamb is responsible for 21 touchdowns this season, which is tied for the school record.

Ten different UCA receivers have caught at least 10 passes this season, led by Jesse Grandy with 43 reeptions for 683 yards and seven scores. Tech has six different receivers with 10 or more receptions, paced by OVC Offensive Player of the Year Tim Benford with 58 catches for 826 yards and five touchdowns. Benford owns the TTU school career records for most receptions (209) and most receiving yards (3,011), and is tied for the record with 27 TD catches.

In the backfield, UCA is led by Jackie Hinton who is averaging 64.3 yards per game. He has 579 yards and four touchdowns on 122 carries. Tech's running game is led by senior Dontey Gay, who rushed for 192 yards last week against Austin Peay to edge past the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He has 1,009 yards on 180 carries and leads the OVC with 15 rushing touchdowns, a school record.

The leader on defense for Central Arkansas is junior linebacker Seth Allison, who leads the Southland Conference with 94 tackles along with 14.5 tackles-for-loss. Tech's defensive stats are topped by true freshman Austin Tallant with 76 tackles, while linebacker Howard Griffin and cornerback Richmond Tooley had each made 72 tackles.

On special teams, Kevin Buford handles the punting for UCA and is averaging 35.4 yards in 50 kicks with 14 downed inside the 20. Placekicker Eddie Camara is 12-for-17 on field goals and 43-for-45 on PAT kicks. Tech punter Nick Campbell is averaging 39.6 yards on just 35 punts, the fewest by any team in the OVC, and has downed 10 kicks inside the 20. True freshman placekicker Zach Sharp is 9-for-15 on field goals and 44-for-45 on PAT kicks.

Plenty of tickets are available for the game, and can be ordered online at TTUsport.com or purchased at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center on Friday. Ticket windows at the stadium open at 12:30 p.m. and the gates will open at 1 p.m. The Magic 98.5 Tailgate Park opens at 10 a.m., featuring live music by Chris Rains and the Pilots of the Universe.

The winner of Saturday's game advances to play at Montana next Saturday, Dec. 3.