By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – When Tennessee Tech last had a field goal kicker set the school record for field goal distance, Nick Madonia wasn't even born.
But with a 57-yard kick, 14 yards longer than his career-best, Madonia didn't just break the Tech record, he shattered it.
However, that was only the tip of the iceberg as the Golden Eagles routed Tennessee State 44-16 on Saturday.
"After a tough game last week (at Tennessee)," Tech head coach Marcus Satterfield said, "we went back to work and had a great week of practice. They worked hard every single day. This group is special. They responded from a bad game in a way that I expected them to.
"From the first snap, they showed what kind of team they want to be. From the first snap, I felt like we had total control of the game, all because of our seniors and their leadership in the locker room."
The win is the first for the Golden Eagles at Hale Stadium since 1995.
For Tech (4-6, 4-3 Ohio Valley Conference), the Golden Eagles claim a share of the Sergeant York Trophy for the first time since 2011, forcing a three-way tie with UT Martin and TSU. The Skyhawks, however, will get to keep the large trophy as the defending champion.
Madonia saw his eight-consecutive field goal streak snapped as he missed his first attempt, but his kick in the second quarter, with the wind blowing into the uprights made history.
Murray Cunningham had Tech's first 53-yarder in 1974. Ryan Weeks tied the record in 1993.
But 42 years after the initial kick, 26 after the tying kick, Madonia knocked those players off the top of the charts, nailing a 57-yarder.
The original plan in the situation was to punt, but Satterfield changed his mind and went for the longest field goal in Tech history.
"I had no idea that it was a school record," Madonia said. "They called a punt and I was yelling at Coach (Dantae) Wright and Coach Satt. I kicked a 58-yarder during pre-game warmups so I told them to put me out there. Thank God he called a timeout and put his faith in me.
"It was just a normal field goal to me. I kicked it solid and made sure it went through. (After missing the first kick,) I still had confidence in me. I don't miss often. Once I missed it, there was nothing more I could do about it and I just had to get ready for the next field goal."
The kick ties for the longest in the OVC this season and is tied for the second longest in the NCAA this season.
Madonia also recovered the onside kick to start that scoring drive, waiting for the right moment and grabbing the loose ball.
"I found out that we were going to do that right before kickoff," Madonia said. "I knew I was going to do it, so I just had to get my mind right. I did it like I always do in practice and it worked."
Madonia ended the game with three field goals, hitting from 57, 39 and 33 yards, after missing from 45 in the first quarter. He has hit 11 of his last 12 tries and is 11-for-14 on the season.
"He's money," Satterfield said. "He's a specialist who can do it all. He can do all the kicks, he's got a great leg. I'm so excited that he got a chance to kick that and that's going to be a hard one to break. I'm so proud of him, I'm proud of all of these guys and I can't get back to work and get ready for the next game."
However, Madonia wasn't the only one who had a monster game.
Yeedee Thaenrat rushed 19 times for 164 yards and a touchdown, then picked up a 29-yard pass from Michael Birdsong to put together a 193 all-purpose yard day. The 164 rushing yards was the most for a Tech rusher since Darian Stone in 2012 against UT Martin. The 295 rushing yards as a team were the most since beating Cumberland in 2013.
Dontez Byrd had two touchdowns in the game as he had 152 all-purpose yards – 112 yards and a touchdown receiving, six yards and a touchdown rushing and 34 yards on a kickoff return.
Not to be outdone, Birdsong also rushed for a touchdown, while Matthew Leifheit was moved over to tight end and caught a three-yard touchdown pass.
The 463 yards of total offense is the second most for the Golden Eagles this season, shy of the 493 recorded at Austin Peay.
"Man, what a night our O-line had," Satterfield said. "Blocking for those guys and controlling the line of scrimmage, that was great for us tonight."
The Tech defense was solid, holding the Tigers (6-4, 3-4 OVC) to just field goals through three quarters. TSU scored its lone touchdown in the fourth quarter as Ronald Butler completed a 22-yard strike to Steven Newbold with 8:08 remaining.
State ended the game with 295 yards of offense. Erick Evans ran for 47 yards on nine carries, while Patrick Smith caught five passes for 65 yards.
Ronald Butler threw for 202 yards on 16-for-31 passing.
Tech returns to action for the regular-season finale on Saturday as the Golden Eagles host Murray State for Senior Day, starting at 1:30 p.m.