COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Renewing a heated regional rivalry after eight years, two non-conference games against teams from the tough Missouri Valley Football Conference, another Thursday night opener in Tucker Stadium and a typically challenging eight-game Ohio Valley Conference slate await the Tennessee Tech football team in 2014.
The 12-game Golden Eagle football schedule was announced this week by head coach Watson Brown and TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson.
"This is an extremely challenging schedule," Brown said. "There are a whole bunch of really outstanding opponents on the schedule, and some great rivalries. It will be a lot of fun to prepare each week for these games.
"Adding Chattanooga and Northern Iowa gives us two additional quality opponents, and we saw just how competitive Indiana State was a year ago on our field," he added. " The non-conference schedule is going to be very tough, and we already know how difficult the conference schedule will be. There are certainly no easy games ahead of us."
The Golden Eagles will need to be road warriors in the early part of the season. Tech opens with a Thursday night home game against Kentucky Christian University in late August, then doesn't return home to play in Tucker Stadium for more than a month, Following three road bouts, Tech hosts two home contests in October and a three-game home stretch in November.
Tech's conference schedule includes road games at Tennessee State, UT Martin, Jacksonville State and Austin Peay, while home conference games are against Murray State, Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri.
The season gets underway under the lights in Tucker Stadium with an Aug. 28 visit by the Kentucky Christian Knights, an NAIA team out of Grayson, Ky., in the Northeast corner of the state. After that, Tech faces a rematch, non-conference game with Indiana State University in Terre Haute on Sept. 6. Those two teams met in Cookeville a year ago and the Golden Eagles pulled out a thrilling 38-37 victory. ISU is the first of two games against Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) opponents, the league that has produced the past three Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) champions in North Dakota State.
Following their only open date of the year on Sept. 13, Tech heads to Nashville to open the OVC slate on Sept. 20, against Tennessee State. The game will be played on the TSU campus in historic Hale Stadium.
"We will look forward to the game with Tennessee State, not only because it's a rivalry game and our first conference game, but it's our first York Trophy game," Brown said. "There's always a little something in our step when we prepare for a York Trophy game. We've had several really close games with Tennessee State, and I expect another tough and intense game this time."
The final September weekend has Tech heading to Cedar Falls, Iowa to challenge the Northern Iowa Panthers in the UNI-Dome. UNI is Tech's second foe from the MVFC, a team that is usually posted prominently in the FCS Top 25. Last year, after a 4-0 start, the Panthers lost a one-point game to eventual national champ NDSU then dropped three consecutive overtime games before finishing the year 7-5 overall. Northern Iowa, which will be determined to return to the spot in the polls, drew an average home attendance of 12,500 to its domed stadium last year.
Come October, Tech opens a stretch of six consecutive OVC contests, with five of the next seven games at home on Overall Field. The run begins Oct. 4 with a visit from Murray State,Tech's longest running, current rivalry. This year's game will be the 80th in the long-standing series which began in 1930, and the 70th consecutive year that the to schools have met on the gridiron, resuming the year-by-year meeting in 1945 following a few years off due to World War II.
Five days later, the Golden Eagles visit UT Martin for the team's second Thursday night contest on Oct. 9 and the second York Trophy contest, then gets a nine-day stretch to prepare for an Oct. 18 visit from Eastern Kentucky. The EKU visit will be the 71st meeting between Tech and the Colonels in a rivalry dating back to 1937, and the 65th consecutive year.
Tech plays at Jacksonville State on Oct. 25, then November features three home games in a row in Tucker Stadium, including the first meeting with Chattanooga in nine years. First, there's a visit from defending OVC champion Eastern Illinois on Nov. 1, Homecoming against Southeast Missouri on Nov. 8, and the game with Chattanooga on Nov. 15. The EIU game will be the 21st in the series, and the game with SEMO will mark the 23rd contest in the series.
The rivalry with UT Chattanooga dates all the way back to the 1938 season, with meeting in every decade since except the current decade. In all, the two in-state schools have met 38 times with the Mocs owning a 28-10 advantage in the series. The last time the teams met came in the 2006 season, under interim head coach Doug Malone.
Tech and Chattanooga met four straight years to begin the Jim Ragland coaching era at Tech (1986-1989), but didn't play again until the 1997 opener under coach Mike Hennigan. The rivalry went dormant again until a five-year run beginning in 2002 under Hennigan. The Golden Eagles captured wins the first three years, while Chattanooga earned victories in 2005 and 2006, the latter game marking the last time the teams squared off on the gridiron.
The 2014 regular season wraps up with a visit to Austin Peay and Tech's final game in the three-game race for the Sgt. York Trophy. Tech's series with the Governors is another long-running rivalry, with this year's being the 49th meeting between the two schools. Tech leads 29-18-1.
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.