By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Twenty-one Tennessee Tech football players will put on their uniforms for the last time on Saturday as the Golden Eagles close out the 2019 campaign against Tennessee State.
But the tears aren't being shed just yet nor the memories being recollected as there's still plenty of business at hand for Tech in this 12th and final game of the season.
Kickoff from Tucker Stadium is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. Dylan Vazzano and Sam Brooks will handle play-by-play coverage on ESPN+ (subscription required), while Roger Ealey and Buddy Pearson will tackle radio duties on 98.5 KISS FM.
Tech comes into the game with a 6-5 record and will go for its seventh win of the season on Saturday, which would be the most since 2011 when the Golden Eagles went 7-4, earned their 10th Ohio Valley Conference championship and first Football Championship Subdivision playoff berth. A seventh win would also tie Tech for the ninth-most wins in a single season in program history.
It would be a nice feather in the cap to wrap up the careers of Tech's 21 seniors ending their careers on Saturday – Hunter Coleman, Shannon Fayne, R.D. Ford, Andrew Goldsmith, Jackson Guy, Norman Hand, Austin Hicks, Seth Huner, Matthew McClurg, Mitchell McClurg, Aderick Moore, Aidan Panni, Xavier Schlueter, Darrius Stafford, Adam Swayze, Andrew Swicegood, Luke Ward, D.J. Wilkes, Storm Williams, Haidar Zaidan and Clint Zierke.
Meanwhile, Tennessee State comes into town with a 2-9 record, 1-6 in the Ohio Valley. However, that one win was a 26-24 victory over Austin Peay – who defeated Tech 58-21. That makes the record quite a bit deceiving and Saturday every bit of a trap game for the Golden Eagles.
One major question mark for TSU is the status of wide receiver Chris Rowland, who leads the FCS in receiving yards – total and per game – and is second in all-purpose yards and receptions per game. After suffering an injury a couple of weeks ago, Rowland did not play as a receiver, but did play in his holder duties for kicker Antonio Zita.
Rowland has 1,289 receiving yards with seven touchdowns, has rushed for 129 yards and a score, while also returning 14 punts for 166 yards and a TD and 14 kickoffs for 365 yards and a touchdown. Without him last week, the Tigers were held to 123 yards through the air, but that was also against a solid UT Martin defense. TSU completed 10 of 23 passes.
The Tigers, however, did run the ball 50 times in the process. Te'Kenderick Roberson led the rushing attack with 21 carries for 84 yards, while Shawn McColley had eight carries for 58 yards.
Roberson leads TSU with 680 total yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Typically, the Tigers are more pass-heavy on offense, averaging 263.9 yards through the air and 134.1 yards on the ground. On defense, it's fairly even as TSU has allowed 250.2 yards passing and 206.5 yards rushing per game.
Zita leads TSU in scoring with 83 points as the kicker has been 19-for-23 this season on field goals, 26-for-28 on PATs. He kicked a season-long 50-yarder against Austin Peay.
Meanwhile, Tech quarterback Bailey Fisher will have the opportunity to build on to what has already been a record-shattering season. With four single-season marks already in his pocket – completions (219), passing touchdowns (20), total offensive yards (2,868) and total touchdowns (30) – the sophomore signal-caller has the opportunity to add at least three more this weekend.
Fisher needs 20 passing attempts to tie Robert Craft (372 in 2004), 105 passing yards to tie Michael Birdsong (2,577 in 2016) and four rushing touchdowns to tie Dontey Gay (15 in 2011).
He also leads the team in total points with 68, while Zaidan is second with 49.
Zaidan is 10-for-13 this season on field goals and is one of only two FCS kickers with three field goals longer than 50 yards and joined Nick Madonia as the only Tech kickers to have three 50-plus field goals in a single season in program history last week with a 52-yard kick against Eastern Kentucky.
David Gist leads Tech in rushing with 441 yards on 106 carries with a touchdown, while Fisher has rushed 144 times for 396 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns. True freshman Metrius Fleming has 43 catches for 585 yards and three touchdowns, while Darrius Stafford has 515 yards and three scores on 41 catches.
Aderick Moore leads the Golden Eagles in tackles with 93, while Seth Carlisle has a team-high three interceptions, Chris Tucker and Henry Karimu have a team-leading five sacks each and Tucker leads the team with three fumble recoveries.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information