COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Tech comes home to Tucker Stadium Saturday afternoon to host a dangerous Eastern Illinois Panther squad for the Golden Eagles' annual Homecoming game. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. CDT.
The Golden Eagles will pick themselves up and come out with plenty of fight after being floored last week with a 22-21 loss at No. 21 Tennessee State after time had expired. Sophomore quarterback Darian Stone nearly directed Tech to an improbable upset in his first career start, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another as the Golden Eagles built a 21-15 lead. The Tech defense held TSU out of the end zone, forcing the Tigers to settle for five field goals inside the red zone, until Tennessee State managed the final-minute, game-winning drive.
Eastern Illinois, meanwhile, comes to town in the thick of the OVC title race with a 4-1 league record after smashing pre-season favorite Eastern Kentucky, 24-7, on the road last week.
Tech has won the last two games against Eastern Illinois, posting a 31-20 victory last year in Charleston after claiming a 34-20 win in 2010, the last time these two teams tangled in Tucker Stadium.
In addition to Homecoming, it's also the Hall of Fame game when the four inductees to the TTU Sports Hall of Fame will be recognized.
THE SERIES — Eastern Illinois owns a 12-6 edge in the previous 18 games in the series, but the Golden Eagles have won the last two games. Tech claimed a 34-20 victory in Tucker Stadium in the 2010 season, the last time they met in Cookeville. The Golden Eagles also earned a 31-20 victory last year on the Panthers' home turf. Prior to that, Eastern Illinois had won five straight from 2005 to 2009.
HOMECOMING GAME — The game will be Tech's annual Homecoming contest. Tech is 43-37 all-time in Homecoming games, but has lost the last two to Eastern Kentucky in 2010 and Murray State in 2011. Eastern Illinois has been Tech's Homecoming guest three times, with the Panthers' owning a 2-1 edge in those games. EIU won 35-28 in Tech's 2002 Homecoming game, Tech won 40-37 in overtime in 2004, and EIU won 38-14 in 2006.
ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT — The Golden Eagles have three players on the ballot for CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in 2012. The players who have met the tough criteria, including a 3.3 GPA, include junior James Normand and sophomores Stephen Bush and Cody Matthews. Last year, Normand was named to the Academic All-District team along with graduated senior Corey Watson.
Eastern Illinois Panthers (5-3, 4-1 OVC)
at Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (2-6, 0-5 OVC)
Saturday, Nov. 3 • 1:30 p.m. CT
Tucker Stadium (16,500) • Cookeville, Tenn. TV:........................................ WCTE/OVC Digital Network
Live Stats: http://livestats.prestosports.com/ttusports/fball Series Record:.......................... Eastern Illinois leads 12-6
Last Meeting:............. Tennessee Tech won 31-20 (9/17/11)
Dino Babers at Eastern Illinois:.......................... 5-3 (1 yr.)
Dino Babers Overall:............................................... same
Watson Brown at Tennessee Tech:................ 27-37 (6 yrs.)
Watson Brown Overall:......................... 121-188-1 (28 yrs.)
Eastern Illinois Last Week: W, 24-7 at #18 Eastern Kentucky
Tennessee Tech Last Week: L, 22-21 at #21 Tennessee State
GAME NOTES: Fresh off its first road victory of the season Eastern Illinois will travel to defending OVC Champion Tennessee Tech for the Golden Eagles Homecoming on Saturday. Both teams are coming off matchups with nationally-ranked teams a week ago, as EIU won at No. 18 Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee Tech lost on the last play of the game at No. 21 Tennessee State. Eastern Illinois leads the all-time series 12-6 although Tennessee Tech has won the last two meetings in the series (after EIU had previously won 9 of the previous 10). A season ago Tech pulled out to a 31-7 lead after three quarters and held on for a 31-20 victory. Jimmy Garoppolo completed 29-of-52 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked four times. With the negative sack yardage EIU finished the game with -6 yards of rushing. Tre Lamb completed 22-of-27 passes for 240 yards and a score while Dontey Gay rushed for 96 yards and three scores for the Golden Eagles.
SCOUTING EASTERN ILLINOIS: Eastern Illinois picked up its first victory over a nationally-ranked team since 2009 (a 28-20 win over No. 12 Jacksonville State) when the team went to No. 18 Eastern Kentucky and won 24-7. The win was also the first road victory of the season for the Panthers who are now 4-1 in the OVC this year, putting them in a three-way tie for first place with Tennessee State and UT Martin. Wide receiver Erik Lora caught 10 passes for 97 yards and a score and in the process began the OVC's single-season receptions leader with 93 (breaking the old mark of 92 held by Samford's Efrem Hill). The 93 catches now ranks 25th in NCAA FCS history and Lora is on pace to break the all-time record of 123 (finishing with 128 on the year). Lora continues to rank first nationally in every major receiving category and was added to the Walter Payton Watch List last week. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has won throw a touchdown in 23-straight games, passed for 266 yards and a score in the game; he ranks fourth nationally in points responsible for (19.0/game) and fifth in total offense (344.88 yards/game). Jake Walker rushed for 119 yards and a score; it marked his third-straight 100-yard rushing game. The Panthers defense did not allow a 100-yard rusher for the sixth time this season as the defense racked up 12.0 tackles-for-loss and 5.0 sacks in the game. Senior Artavious Dowdell was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week after registering seven tackles, 2.0 tackles-for-loss, a sack and a quarterback hurry.
SCOUTING TENNESSEE TECH: Tennessee Tech squared off with its third nationally-ranked team of the season on Saturday, playing at No. 21 Tennessee State. The Golden Eagles pulled ahead 21-15 early in the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Darian Stone (playing for the injured Tre Lamb) capped a 9-play, 61-yard drive with a six-yard touchdown pass to Cody Matthews. But TTU would suffer a heartbreaking 22-21 defeat, as TSU scored its lone touchdown of the game on the final play of the contest. Stone finished with 77 passing yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 86 yards and a score. Newcomer Da'Rick Rogers, who entered the game ranked in the Top 10 nationally in receiving yards/game, was held without catch in the contest. Punter Chad Zinchini had another great game, punting five times for a 52.6 yard average, including a long of 60 yards and one punt downed inside the 20-yard line. Zinchini now ranks sixth nationally in punting (44.75 yards/punt).