Second half comeback bid falls short, Golden Eagles trimmed by UT Martin

Second half comeback bid falls short, Golden Eagles trimmed by UT Martin

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -  Tennessee Tech's comeback bid fell short for the second straight week as UT Martin defeated the Golden Eagles, 28-17,Thursday night despite a solid second half by TTU defense.

The Skyhawks looked to really blow the game open, building a dominating 28-3 first-half lead behind the arm of Jarod Neal and legs of DJ McNeil. Neal wrapped up the first 30 minutes of action going 16-of-20 for 195 yards and a touchdown while McNeil carried the ball 13 times for 86 yards and a score and caught two balls for 23 yards.

The Tech defense never gave up, keeping the UT Martin offense off the scoreboard for the contest's final 30 minutes. The Golden Eagles forced two key turnovers in the second stanza, including a clutch fumble as the Skyhawks were threatening to score in the game's final seven minutes.

Sophomore cornerback Demario Donnell stripped McNeil at the TTU one-yard line and veteran safety Marty Jones recovered the ball in the end zone to force a touchback and give the Golden Eagles the ball with 6:18 to play and down just 11 points.

Donnell finished the contest with eight tackles, the forced fumble, and two pass breakups. Jones led the Golden Eagles with 14 tackles.

Tra'Darius Goff made the other key turnover in the half, ripping the ball out of the hands of UTM receiver Corey Jordan and returning it 28 yards to put the Golden Eagles into scoring position at the Skyhawk 36-yard line. Goff finished the night with 11 tackles and both a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

The Tech offense converted on the turnover as redshirt quarterback Jared Davis, who entered the game for an injured Darian Stone, hit Cody Matthews for a 29-yard score to start the Golden Eagles' comeback bid and make it 28-10 in favor of Martin.

Matthews wrapped up the contest with a career-high 130 receiving yards on seven receptions and a touchdown. Davis finished the day 14-of-24 for 139 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both picks occurred in the final four minutes of the contest as he tried to lead the Golden Eagles downfield.

Punter Chad Zinchini played a crucial role in the field position battle in the contest, booting three of his four punts inside the 20-yard line. The senior averaged an incredible 50.2 yards per punt, including a clutch 61-yarder that pinned the Skyhawks at their own one-yard line with 5:25 to play in the game.

The Golden Eagles return to the gridiron next Saturday, Oct. 19 as they head north for an OVC battle with Eastern Kentucky in Richmond, Ky. Game time is set for a 3 p.m. CDT start.

- The Golden Eagles enter the contest 3-3 overall and 0-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play.
- UT Martin comes into tonight's game with a 3-2 mark overall and 1-1 in league play.
- Tech owns a 20-10 series advantage over the Skyhawks.
- The series began in 1927, but became dormant between the end of the Great Depression and 1970. It resumed permanently in 1991 when Martin joined the OVC.
- The two teams have met 22 consecutive years since the Skyhawks joined the league. Tech owns a 14-8 advantage since that time.
- The Golden Eagles have also won the previous two contests, including last year's thrilling 45-44, overtime victory.
- Both teams enter the game after falling to other OVC opponents last week. Tech lost to Murray State, 35-24, in Murray while UT Martin dropped a home contest to Jacksonville State, 41-27.
- Tech's game captains for tonight are #16 Zack Ziegler, #60 James Normand, and #74 Wesley Sherrill.
- The Golden Eagles win the toss and have chosen to receive.

- The game is officially underway as Ladarius Vanlier takes the return to the TTU 34-yard line.
- Tech punter Chad Zinchini on for Tech. He boots it 40-yards to the UTM 10-yard line. The Skyhawks fumble it, but recover it at the 13-yard line.
- The Skyhawks get into the endzone by a goal-line leap by quarterback Jarod Neal. Martin leads 7-0 with 8:14 to play in the first quarter.
- HUGE COMPLETION!!!! Darian Stone throws an absolute bullet and connects with Cody Matthews for a 42-yard gain!
- Zach Sharp out for a 39-yard field goal attempt.
- IT'S GOOD!!!! Tech cuts the lead to 7-3 with 5:48 to play in the first quarter.
- SACK!!! Harrison Reid creams Jarod Neal and forces a huge FUMBLE!!! Kevin Robinson-White recovers it and Tech takes over on the Martin 25-yard line!
- Sharp comes out again and will attempt a 31-yard field goal.
- It's no good and the Skyhawks take over on their own 20-yard line.
- At the end of the first quarter, UT Martin leads the Golden Eagles, 7-3.

- DJ McNeil breaks one for the Skyhawks and scores from 32 yards out. Martin takes a 14-3 lead with 14:07 to go in the first half.
- UT Martin forces a fumble and will recover on the Tech 31-yard line.
- Jeremy Butler catches a 13-yard pass from Neal and pounds his way into the endzone. UTM leads 21-3 with 10:51 to play in the first half.
- Jared Davis enters the game for Tech after Darian Stone takes a hard hit in the backfield.
- Zinchini out to punt. He BOOMS one 58 yards to the one-yard line. Martin muffs it, but recovers on four-yard line.
- Running back Abou Toure grinds one into the endzone from one-yard out and UT Martin takes a 28-3 lead.
- Going into the half, the Skyhawks lead the Golden Eagles, 28-3.

- Sharp powers the kick off into the endzone for a touchback and we are underway in the second half.
- GREAT open-field tackle by Austin Tallant in the back field to force a small loss on first down.
- Tech forces the Skyhawks to punt and James Satterfield boots one to the Tech 19-yard line.
- J'vontez Blackmon forces a fumble and recovers the ball at the Golden Eagle 27-yard line.
- FUMBLE!!!!! Tra'Darius Goff strips and recovers the ball at the Tech 33-yard line and takes it all the way back to the Skyhawk's 36-yard line.
- TOUCHDOWN!!!! Davis connects with Cody Matthews on a beautiful 21-yard touchdown pass. Tech cuts the lead to 28-10 with 9:52 to play in the third quarter.
- BIG bat of the ball at the line of scrimmage by Bill Dillard and the Golden Eagles force the Skyhawks to punt again.
- Tech will take over on its own 20-yard line.
- Vanlier with a 22-yard scamper and Tech moves the chains.
- He does it again. Vanlier with a 13-yard carry and Tech has momentum as it crosses midfield.
- Another first down. Davis converts with a QB draw and the Golden Eagles are approaching the redzone.
- At the end of the third quarter, UT Martin leads the Golden Eagles, 28-10.

- TOUCHDOWN!!!! Davis hits Zack Ziegler in the back of the endzone on a five-yard touchdown pass and the Golden Eagles cut the lead down further to 28-17 with 14:56 to play.
- Cody Matthews has his third career 100-yard receiving game. He has five receptions for 109 yards.
- SACK!!!! Malcolm Mitchell takes down Neal and knocks the Skyhawks out of field goal range!
- UT Martin punts and Tech takes over on its own 28-yard line with 11:33 to play.
- Zinchini out to punt. He kicks it 42 yards. Martin takes over on its own 39-yard line after a 14-yard return.
- Blake Adams has just broken his career-high in tackles. His new career-mark is now 13.
- FUMBLE!!!!!! Demario Donnell forces a fumble at the Tech three-yard line and Marty Jones recovers it in the endzone for a touchback!!!!! Tech takes over on its own 20-yard line with 6:15 to go.
- Zinchini out for the punt. He CRUSHES one 61 yards down to the UT Martin one-yard line!
- Tech holds and forces a UT Martin punt. The Golden Eagles take over on their own 47-yard line.
- The Skyhawks intercept a long pass attempt by Davis and will take over on Tech's 44-yard line with 4:09 to play.
- UTM forced to punt. Satterfield kicks it out at the TTU 19-yard line with 2:03 to go.
- The Skyhawks pick off a fourth-down pass by Davis and take over on the Tech 27-yard line with 21 seconds to play.
- UT Martin defeats the Golden Eagles, 28-17.