Golden Eagles visit Eastern Kentucky for Colonels' Homecoming game

Golden Eagles visit Eastern Kentucky for Colonels' Homecoming game

Click here to view/download TTU game notes vs. EKU (PDF)

By Rob Schabert, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Seeking to notch a game in the victory column in Ohio Valley Conference play, Tennessee Tech heads into hostile territory against the program's longest-running nemesis to face the Eastern Kentucky Colonels Saturday afternoon in Roy Kidd Stadium.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. CDT, and to make matters worse, it's the Colonels' Homecoming game.

Still, Tech heads into the contest knowing that the last time the Purple & Gold tread on the EKU turf, coach Watson Brown's team came away with a 28-21 victory.

Throughout the years, the series has leaned toward the Colonels, who own a 51-18 advantage including a 42-28 victory last year in Cookeville. EKU comes into the game with a 3-3 overall record and a 1-1 mark in OVC play while the Golden Eagles are 3-4 overall and 0-2 within the league.

Each team has had extra time to prepare for this encounter. EKU had an open date last weekend, and has been off since a lopsided win over Austin Peay on Oct. 5. The Golden Eagles played on Thursday night last week, giving them nine days to work on the EKU contest.

That extra time has also given the Golden Eagles a chance to heal some injuries that have hampered Tech in the past several weeks.

The ground game will have a lot to say about Saturday's outcome. Eastern Kentucky ranks first in the OVC in both rushing and rushing defense. The Colonels are averaging 224 yards per game rushing, while allowing a meager 104.5 yards per contest.

Part of the reason for the Colonels success in rushing yardge is EKU's pass protection. The Colonels have not lost many yards via the sack, ranking first in the OVC in allowing the fewest sacks, getting caught just nine times in six games. Tech, in comparison, has been sacked 21 times in seven games.

While EKU ranks first in rushing defense, the Golden Eagles are fourth in the league, allowing 178.4 yards per game.

A primary reason has been the stellar play of Golden Eagle junior safety Marty Jones, who ranks first in the OVC in tackles this season with 64 total stops, a league-best average of 9.1 per game. He had 14 tackles last week against UT Martin (along with a fumble recovery), his eighth career game with double-digit tackles totals. He posted a career-high 16 tackles three weeks ago in Tech's 38-37 win over Indiana State.

In 32 career games, Jones has 209 total tackles to rank second among all active Golden Eagle players behind junior Austin Tallant. After making 43 tackles as a true freshman in 2009, he stopped the ball carrier 87 times in 2010. He missed all of the 2011 season, and had 15 tackles in just five quarters last year when he was injured, including 13 in the opening-day win over Hampton.

Tech's defense has shown it has the ability to stymie the ground game. Tech completely shut down the run against Hampton, limiting the Pirates to 55 total yards on the ground on 29 carries, on Sept. 14. Tech had nine tackles-for-loss for 26 yards. A week later against Tennessee State, bolstered by solid play from the defensive line headlined by senior Jordan Johnson and tackle Malcolm Mitchell, Tech held the Tigers to 95 rushing yards on 36 attempts with 7.5 tackles-for-loss.

Those two games marked the 10th and 11th times under Watson Brown that Tech has held an opponent under 100 rushing yards, and the first since limiting Eastern Illinois to minus six rushing yards on Sept. 17, 2011. The Golden Eagles almost had another game of less than 100 yards allowed two weeks ago, yielding just 105 yards to Murray State.

One area where Tech could help iteself is in avoiding the yellow flags -- the Golden Eagles rank second in the OVC for fewest yards penalized per game.