By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Winless no more.
After eight long weeks, all the Tennessee Tech football team wanted to do was get a notch under the win column, to get proof that the process was indeed working.
With renewed vigor following the off-week and with the Sergeant York Trophy in play, the Golden Eagles made a statement on Saturday, earning a huge 30-26 victory over visiting Tennessee State.
The Tigers certainly made the Golden Eagles work for the win as Patrick Smith caught seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns and Steven Newbold caught seven passes for 108 yards. Quarterback Michael Hughes threw for 331 yards on 20-of-36 passing to propel TSU (4-4, 1-4 OVC) in its effort.
However, the key stat on Hughes day came from two fourth-quarter interceptions by Clay Davis, the latter sealing the contest for the Golden Eagles. The first came with 2:19 remaining in the contest, potentially allowing Tech to run down the clock.
But Yeedee Thaenrat was brought down in the end zone, resulting in a safety and giving State the ball back with 2:09 remaining with the four-point margin well within reach.
Still, Tech's defense came through once again. Hughes was sacked, then completed a pass to Seth Rowland to move the chains. Hughes threw an incompletion, then Davis struck again, snagging the pass out of the air at the Tech 40.
This time, Tech wasn't going to let TSU get another attempt. With 1:31 remaining on the clock, the Golden Eagles got to go into victory formation for the first time in the 2017 campaign.
Tech certainly had no problem putting offense together, racking up a respectable 332 yards, including 160 rushing and 172 passing yards.
And the Golden Eagles came out in a big way, putting 10 points on the board before the first five minutes of the contest had ticked off. Nick Madonia got the first of his three field goals with a 40-yard kick, then running back Andrew Goldsmith worked in a little trickery as the former high school quarterback showed off his arm with a 27-yard pass to Dontez Byrd to end a two-play, 39-second scoring drive.
Goldsmith also ran for a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
But the Tigers came roaring back, taking a 24-20 lead in the third quarter on a 16-yard touchdown catch from Smith.
Madonia hit his third field goal of the day, a 39-yarder, with 6:31 remaining to make it a six-point contest.
Goldsmith ended the game with 101 carries and a touchdown on 12 carries, while throwing for 27 yards and touchdown. Byrd caught five passes for 111 yards and a score. Sale completed 10 of his 23 passes for 145 yards.
Aderick Moore had 12 stops, including two sacks for 22 yards and five tackles-for-loss for 30 yards, while Josh Cunningham had 11 tackles. Davis and Moore were selected as the First National Bank of Tennessee-Special Olympics Players of the Week.
The Golden Eagles return to action on Saturday as they host Austin Peay in their annual Homecoming contest. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Photo by Tony Marable