By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
LOGAN, Utah – Nick Madonia nailed a career-high four field goals and narrowly missed a fifth Thursday night as the Tennessee Tech football team wrapped up the non-conference portion of its schedule at Utah State, falling 73-12 to the Aggies.
Against the Football Bowl Subdivision team, the Golden Eagles saw some flashes with a couple of crucial defensive stops, then got a couple of big offensive plays. However, Tech (0-3) just could not find pay dirt when it came to the end zone.
"Nick is an amazing kicker," said head coach Dewayne Alexander. "He's a first-class young man and I'm really happy for him. He was preseason all-conference and he showed why he's the best kicker in the league. I wouldn't trade him for anybody."
An Aggie fumble on the first offensive play of the contest gave the Golden Eagles great field position at the Utah State, but Tech was held to no gain, setting up a 54-yard kick from Madonia, the second-longest in school history and Tech's longest since Madonia made a school-record 57-yarder against Tennessee State in 2016.
Madonia picked up his second midway through the second stanza as Tech completed a 10-play, 72-yard drive. The Golden Eagles reached the Utah State 1, but the Aggies kept Tech out of the end zone, prompting a 20-yard kick from Madonia.
His third came in the second drive of the third quarter. Luke Ward engineered a 10-play, 69-yard drive as Tech was held to the Utah State 6. Madonia's kick was true from 23 yards out.
The kickoff from Haidar Zaidan was returned 15 yards, but Marcus McMeans forced the fumble, then Zaidan recovered it, giving the Golden Eagles another offensive series. But the offense was pushed back, leading to another Madonia attempt, this time 42 yards. However, the kick sailed to the right.
He added his fourth of the night with 2:02 remaining in the contest though, nailing a 45-yarder to close out Tech's scoring.
Utah State (2-1) rolled up 621 yards of offense, including 330 rushing and 291 passing yards.
Tech put together 227 yards, 152 rushing and 75 passing. Bailey Fisher was 5-for-14 for 61 yards, while Luke Ward led the rushers with nine carries for 52 yards. Andrew Goldsmith caught two passes for 29 yards to lead the receivers.
USU quarterback Jordan Love threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-26 passing, while Darwin Thompson rushed for 107 yards and a score on six carries. Morian Walker Jr. ran for two touchdowns on five carries.
"Offensively, we did some good things," Alexander said. "Then we had a turnover with the interception and they ended up getting points right there. Our defense had been on the field a lot … the pace at which (Utah State) goes, it wears on you. We needed a series or two with some first downs. Once they got rolling, we had to keep fighting.
"We played hard. We played all four quarters, but we've played three really good football teams to start the season. We've learned a lot about our team and what we have to improve on. When you plays teams like these, any mistake is going to show big. This team did the same thing to New Mexico State last week."
The Golden Eagles return to Football Championship Subdivision play as they open Ohio Valley Conference play next Saturday as they travel to No. 11/12 Jacksonville State for a 6 p.m. start.
"It's been a tough stretch," Alexander said. "We've got to hang tough. We'll get back from this flight and we'll give the guys Saturday and Sunday. We're finally getting out of this Thursday schedule and have a normal week as we prepare for Jacksonville State."
Photo by Thomas Corhern