By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
RICHMOND, Ky. – Defense was the name of the game on Saturday as Tennessee Tech saw first-hand why Eastern Kentucky has one of the top defensive units in the Ohio Valley Conference.
The Colonels yielded an early touchdown on short field for the Golden Eagles, then a 54-yard field goal, but that was it on offense for Tech as EKU topped the Golden Eagles 22-10 on Saturday from Roy Kidd Stadium.
"They're a very good team offensively and defensively," said Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander. "They're only 10 points away from being in the mix for the conference championship. They lost in overtime to Austin Peay, they lost a tough one to SEMO last week, so they've had some really tough losses. They're very physical on both sides of the ball and they played the game we knew they would coming in.
"I told the guys in the locker room that when you come to a place like Eastern Kentucky to play, you have got to play well, play hard and give great effort. In the second half, we had a chance to get back into the game. We fought hard, we just didn't make enough plays."
Tech falls to 6-5 overall, 3-4 in OVC play, while the Colonels improved to 6-5, 4-3 in the league.
The Golden Eagles pulled together 150 yards of offense – all but two of those through the air. Meanwhile, the Colonels saw 442 yards on the stat sheet, 212 passing and 230 rushing. EKU had two touchdowns on the day – one-yard runs from Daryl McCleskey and Alonzo Booth – but Tech held the Colonels to three field goals among other scoring drives.
Bailey Fisher took the single-season total offense record as he ended the day with 148 yards on 20-of-35. He had Tech's lone touchdown with a six-yard run. He remains in striking distance of the single-season passing record held by Michael Birdsong and will take a shot at claiming the record next week.
Haidar Zaidan kicked a 50-plus-yard field goal for the second consecutive week, nailing a 52-yarder.
"We were able to force the early turnover and get the score out of that, but other than that, defensively, we weren't very good on first down on either side of the ball," Alexander said. "They have outstanding edge rush passers, they were able to get really good pressure with their down linemen and drop everybody else into coverage and that makes it tough on you if you can't keep down and distance in your favor."
Fisher also saw more pressure than he was accustomed to as the Colonels were able to bring him down for seven sacks and a net loss of 13 yards on the ground. EKU's Taquan Moore ended the game with three sacks.
EKU took a page out of Tech's playbook with time of possession, controlling the ball 35:45.
"Outside of us, they've been the team that's been able to possess the ball a lot," Alexander said. "They had a lot of success on first down to put them into 2nd-and-5s, 2nd-and-6. I was proud of our defense for bowing their neck and making big stops to hold them to field goals. We played really good red zone defense. At the end of the day, we weren't able to capitalize on some plays."
The Golden Eagles head home for the final week of the 2019 campaign as they host Tennessee State on Saturday for Senior Day. Kickoff from Tucker Stadium is set for 1:30 p.m.
"We have an outstanding group of seniors who deserve to be recognized," Alexander said. "I'm very excited about that and we really want to send them out the right way. These guys are winners in my book, regardless of what the scoreboard says. These guys on this 2019 team have a chance to finish things off with a winning season.
"Getting that seventh win next week against TSU will not be an easy task. We'll put this one in the rear view and learn from it what we need to, then roll our sleeves up and go to work to see if we can't finish this thing up at 7-5"