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November 2, 2011

Homecoming Memories: Tech defense holds strong in 1997 overtime win over Murray State

Forced fumble ends game in dramatic fashion

It’s Homecoming Week on the Tennessee Tech campus. No doubt it will be another memorable contest for the Golden Eagles, who are making a strong bid for their first Ohio Valley Conference championship since 1976. Tech and Murray State will square off Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Tucker Stadium. Because of the team’s current success and Top 25 rankings, Tech officials are anticipating one of the largest crowds in several years.

Tickets are on sale at the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940. Not only did the Golden Eagles ruin OVC rival Jacksonville State’s Homecoming with a thrilling 21-14 victory last Saturday, Tech is now tied with JSU and Eastern Kentucky atop the OVC with 4-1 conference records.

With the level of importance of each of Tech’s remaining three games rising by the minute, there is no doubt that the Golden Eagles will leave behind some vivid new memories before it is all said and done. The following is one in a series of stories recalling some of the most memorable Homecoming games of the past 20 years. Today’s memory is from 1997:

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Rainy and overcast conditions couldn’t put a damper on Homecoming 1997 as Tennessee Tech sent the faithful home happy with a hard-fought 16-13 overtime victory over Murray State on Nov. 1.

It was defense that lifted the Golden Eagles on a day in which Tech took its all-time record in overtime games to 4-0.

“Murray State was the best team we’ve been able to beat in a year-and-a-half,” Tech head coach Mike Hennigan said after the game. “Our defense did a great job. They were put into tough field position and rose to the occasion.”

Both teams combined for less than 400 yards in total offense in the sloppy conditions. Murray State gained 226 yards on the day while Tech mustered just 172.

After ending regulation tied at 13-13, Murray State won the toss and elected to go on defense. The Golden Eagles couldn’t move the ball on their first possession and settled for a 42-yard Casey Roberts field goal that gave them a 16-13 advantage.

Asked to keep the Racers out of the end zone and preserve the game, Tech’s defense answered the call on the Racers’ ensuing possession. On third-and-25 from the 40-yard line, Tech defensive end Jerry Turner forced Racer quarterback Dan Loyd to fumble, and the ball was recovered by Tech’s Josh Harris to end the game.

Tech free safety Corey Chamblin was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the game. Chamblin had nine tackles, including two for loss, and a pass breakup.

Murray State dented the scoreboard first when Rob Hart connected on a 37-yard field goal attempt midway through the first quarter. The Golden Eagles took the lead on the ensuing possession as Jerome Tillman’s one-yard run capped an eight-play, 81-yard drive. The extra point attempt failed, leaving Tech with a 6-3 advantage.

The Racers regained the lead on their first possession of the second quarter on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Loyd to Wilbert Smith, but Tech answered before the half. Set up by a 34-yard punt return by Walter Hill to the Racer 23-yard line, the Golden Eagles took a 13-10 lead when Andre Caballero passed one yard to T.J. Christian.

Murray State tied the game midway through the third quarter on a 20-yard field goal from Hart. The Golden Eagle defense made what proved to be a game-saving stand in forcing the Racers to settle for three points after they had first-and-goal from the Tech two-yard line.

Hart missed fourth quarter field goal attempts of 51 and 42 yards to send the game to overtime.

Tillman was Tech’s leading rusher, carrying for 82 yards on 16 carries. Caballero went 13-for-27 through the air to account for 116 yards.