By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
MURRAY, Ky. – As the Tennessee Tech football team enters the final third of the 2019 regular season, there's still a lot to play for. The Golden Eagles will start the last leg of the season Saturday as it travels to Murray State.
Kickoff is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start. Roger Ealey and Dylan Vazzano will provide the call on 98.5 KISS FM, while Neal Bradley and Josh McKeel will handle broadcast duties on ESPN+ (subscription required).
One task at hand for the Golden Eagles is breaking their current three-game slide, falling in consecutive Ohio Valley Conference contests against Southeast Missouri, UT Martin and Austin Peay – the latter two at home in Tucker Stadium.
Tech enters the game with a 4-4 record, 1-3 in the OVC, and still has a chance to finish the season with the program's first winning record since the 2011 campaign. However, the Racers would probably like to derail that train quickly as Murray State probably had this game circled on the calendar after Tech defeated MSU 27-24 last year to give head coach Dewayne Alexander his first Golden Eagle victory at the helm on Homecoming.
However, winning at Roy Stewart Stadium hasn't been an easy task for Tech over the years as the two teams enter their 85th meeting -- the longest series in the Golden Eagles' 98-season history. Tech is a respectable 16-20 on the road in the series, but Murray has won seven of the 10 meetings at Stewart Stadium since 2000. That said, the Racers haven't fared well at Tucker Stadium as Tech has won eight of the nine meetings at home in that same span.
Murray State (4-5, 2-3 OVC) is coming into the contest on a skid of its own, dropping its last two league contests with a 34-27 loss at home to Eastern Kentucky and a close 14-12 loss last week at No. 21 Jacksonville State. This week's game is the last one for the Racers before they go on their open date next week and close out the final two dates of the season.
The Racers are averaging 26.2 points and 410.2 yards of offense a game this season, while their foes are averaging 28.6 points and 391.6 yards per game.
MSU has had some great quarterbacks in its recent history and redshirt sophomore Preston Rice is certainly trying to put his name among those. This season alone, he has thrown for 2,223 yards and 16 touchdowns, completing 206 of his 322 passes and averaging 247 passing yards per game. He is also the team's leading rusher with 348 yards and one rushing score.
Redshirt sophomore LaMartez Brooks is the top receiver for Murray, hauling in 35 passes for 653 yards and five touchdowns and averages 81.6 yards receiving per game.
Kicker Zaden Webber leads the team in scoring as he is 5-for-13 on field goals with a season-long of 53 yards, while also 19-for-19 on PATs for 34 total points.
Defensively, the Racers have collected 14 sacks for 77 yards, seven interceptions for 124 yards and recovered 12 fumbles for 45 yards. They have also recorded two safeties on the season. Redshirt junior Anthony Koclanakis leads the Racers in tackles with 85, which includes a team-high 6.5 tackles-for-loss for 31 yards and is one of three Murray players with three sacks on the season. He also has an interception and two fumble recoveries.
On the other side of the coin, the Golden Eagles, with one fewer game played, is averaging 32.1 points per game and 395.6 yards of offense, while allowing an average of 41.1 points and 434.8 yards of offense.
Sophomore quarterback Bailey Fisher broke the Golden Eagles' single-season combined touchdown record last week against Austin Peay as he collected his 24th touchdown of the year on three TD passes. This season, he has 1,905 yards and 16 touchdowns as he is averaging 238.1 yards per game while completing 159 of his 262 passes.
True freshman Metrius Fleming is Tech's top receiver with 521 yards and two touchdowns on 36 catches, but is also a threat on multiple levels, as he has returned a kickoff for a touchdown and showed off his arm with a 58-yard pass to David Gist.
Gist, a sophomore running back, has been Tech's top rusher with 65 carries for 300 yards and a score. Fisher has been the top scorer on the ground, rushing for eight touchdowns. Tech is averaging 130.2 yards on the ground, close to the Racers' 140.8.
On defense, the Golden Eagles have recorded 19 sacks, picked off five passes and recovered eight fumbles. Senior Aderick Moore leads the way with 64 tackles, including 2.5 for-loss for five yards, a sack, an interception, a pass break-up and QB hurry, as well as two forced fumbles. JUCO transfer Henry Karimu leads the Golden Eagles with four sacks, while Chris Tucker has the most tackles-for-loss with eight for 26 yards.
Photo by Tony Marable