Six home games, visit to Oregon highlight 2012 Golden Eagle football schedule

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Still riding the crest of winning the Ohio Valley Conference championship and making their first appearance in the NCAA FCS Playoffs, the Tennessee Tech football team has turned its attention to the 2012 season.

And, what a season it will be. Tech faces three tough non-conference opponents who combined for a 30-9 record last year including Rose Bowl champion Oregon, six home games in Tucker Stadium plus an OVC schedule destined to present challenges every single week.

The 11-game Golden Eagle football schedule was announced this week by head coach Watson Brown and TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson.  

“We need to use that in the right way as a positive, and not with any arrogance, and I’ve seen no signs of that,” Brown said. “It’s been fun with people patting us on the back, but all that is over and we need to put it behind us now.”

Tech opens with back-to-back Thursday home games against Hampton and North Greenville University, then faces three consecutive road games at Oregon, Southeast Missouri and Murray State.

Other teams scheduled to visit Tucker Stadium are OVC foes Jacksonville State, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and UT Martin. Tech’s OVC road schedule includes games at Tennessee State and Austin Peay in addition to the early games at SEMO and Murray State.

“We have a really good home schedule and a different type of non-conference schedule,” Brown said. “Our non-conference schedule is tougher. Hampton is a very good FCS team and North Greenville is one of the better non-Division I opponents. They are definitely not a ‘gimme’ for us.”

Hampton (Thursday, Aug. 30) was 7-4 overall in 2011 including a 5-3 record in the Mid-East Athletic Conference. Donavan Rose is in his third season as head coach and 21st season on the Pirate coaching staff, helping direct Hampton to 14 MEAC championships since 1991.

North Greenville (Thursday, Sept. 6) is one of the top NCAA Division II programs in the nation, posting an overall 11-3 record last year and advancing to the third round of the D-II playoffs. The Crusaders lost to FCS foe Presbyterian early in the year, and went on a nine-game winning streak before being downed in the playoffs by Delta State, 28-23. A member of the South Atlantic Conference, North Greenville will be led by new head coach Carroll McCray who was named to the post in January.

A perennial Top 10 FBS program, Oregon (Saturday, Sept. 15) was 12-2 overall last year, winning the Pac 12 championship and capturing an exciting 45-38 victory over Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl. The Ducks outscored their opponents 645-345 and their only losses came against LSU in the season opener in the Louisiana Super Dome, and late in the year to USC, 38-35.

The game with Oregon means the Golden Eagles will have faced the last two Rose Bowl champions. Tech played at TCU early in the 2010 season and the Horned Frogs went on to win the 2011 Rose Bowl.

“One of the major reasons that I love these (FBS) games is that I think we’ve played better on the road in the conference because of the big-time atmosphere we’ve played in the past few years.

“I think this one (Oregon) is the toughest one we’ve had yet,” Brown said. “The pace they play is what scares me. The can flat wear you out. They’ve got a better offense than any other FBS team we’ve played.

“I’ve never been there, but I’ve been told it will also be the loudest atmosphere we’ve ever played in,” Brown said.

After the Oregon trip, Tech opens OVC play with two challenging games on the road. Tech begins defense of its title facing games at 2010 OVC champion Southeast Missouri on Sept. 22, followed by a game at Murray State on Sept. 29. The Racers were one of two league teams to defeat the Golden Eagles in 2011.

“The league will be better than last year,” Brown said. “I don’t see a weak link anywhere. All of the quarterbacks are back this year except one, so all of our defenses had better get better.”

The road slate also includes a game at Tennessee State on Oct. 27, the other OVC team with a victory over the Golden Eagles last season.  Tech’s final road game is also the regular season finale, a Nov. 17 battle at rival Austin Peay.

Tech fans will get to see the Golden Eagles host four OVC games, including visits by Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky, the two teams that shared the league title with Tech last year.

JSU is first, coming to Tucker Stadium on Oct. 6, while the EKU Colonels will visit on Oct. 20. Tech also hosts Eastern Illinois on Nov. 3 and UT Martin on Nov. 10.

Starting times and special events will be announced later. Season tickets may be ordered now by visiting the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or calling (931) 372-3940.