Eastern Illinois tops Tech 38-20 in season finale

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - After grabbing an early 7-0 lead, the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles had a tough time stopping Eastern Illinois and finished the 2008 season with a 38-20 Ohio Valley Conference loss to the Panthers on a blustery Saturday afternoon in Tucker Stadium.

Tailback Travorus Bess rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown, Chevon Walker added 109 yards on the ground and Desmin Ward crossed the goal line three times to paces a Panther rushing game that accounted for 296 yards. EIU finished with 492 yards of total offense while Tech had 312.

Tech wraps up the year with a 3-9 overall record, including a 1-7 mark in the OVC. Eastern Illinois finished at 5-7 overall and 3-5 within the league.

The Golden Eagles grabbed a 7-0 lead as freshman Dontey Gay raced 42 yards to paydirt to cap a 73-yard, four-play scoring drive on the game's opening possession. Derrian Waters went 27 yards on the previous play to t up the TD run.

EIU answered by moving 62 yards in 13 plays to tie the game on a four-yard run by Ward, and on their next possession following a Tech punt, the Panthers made it 14-7 early in the second quarter on a three-yard TD by Ward.

The Golden Eagles moved to the EIU 25, where Justin Kraemer made a 42-yard field goal midway through the second period to cut the margin to 14-10. Eastern Illinois drove 45 yards and Ward scored from the one to make it 21-10 at the half.

A 36-yard field goal by Tyler Wilke opened the second half scoring and made it 24-10. Five minutes later, after Tech had a first-and-goal at the two, Kramer made his second field goal of the game, a 22 yard boot that made it 24-13 with 6:30 remaining in the third.

The Tech defense held on fourth down on the next series, but the Golden Eagles couldn't take advantage and were forced to punt. Six plays into the final period, EIU quarterback Bodie Reeder hit Alicus Nozinor with a 13-yard TD strike to make it 31-13.

Bess carried the ball 11 times on a 12-play, 77yard scoring drive, diving in from the one for a touchdown with 3:44 remaining to make it 38-13.

Tech scored the final points of the game after a 41-yard pass-and-run from Lee Sweeney to Tremaine Hudson to the EIU 20. After a couple of runs by Waters, Sweeney hit Mauricio Wallace with a four-yard strike for the score to make it 38-20.

Reeder finished the game by hitting 15-of-19 passes for 196 yards. Bess had 184 all-purpose yards for the Panthers, getting 163 on the ground and 21 on one reception.

Gay had a career-high 66 yards on 10 carries to lead the Tech ground game, while Waters finished with 49 yards on seven attempts. Gay finished with 160 all-purpose yards, including 88 on three kick returns. Sweeney was 19-for-27 for 219 yards. Freshman Tim Benford had seven catches for 57 yards.

Defensively, Maurice Smith topped Tech with 15 total tackles and two passes defended. Jake Kiser had 10 stops.

Pre-game notes

? Before the game, Techs seven seniors, John Ross Hudson, Maurice Smith, Scott Eller, Corey Reed, Derrick Outlaw, Martini Hilliard and Xavier Purdy were honored, as they enter the final game at Tech.

? Eastern Illinois won the opening coin toss, and elected to defer its option to the second half. Tech took the opening kickoff.

First quarter notes

On Tech's first possession, the Golden Eagles drove 73 yards on four plays, capped by a 42 yard touchdown run from freshman Dontey Gay.

The Panthers answered with a touchdown of its own. The drive took 13 plays, and covered 62 yards in nearly six minutes, and included a fourth down conversion by the Panthers, allowing EIU to tie the game at 7.

Second quarter notes

EIU capped a 75 yard touchdown drive 28 seconds into the second quarter, to take a 14-7 lead.

The Golden Eagles were able to put a drive together mid-way through the second quarter, and Justin Kraemer capped it with a 42 yard field goal, making the score 14-10. The kick was Kraemer's fifth successful attempt from over 40 yards. His season long was 51 yards against Southeast Missouri State.

After one more EIU touchdown, the teams headed into halftime with a 21-10 score.

Halftime notes

In the first half, Tech QB Lee Sweeney completed 10-of-17 passes for 101 yards, with no interceptions and no touchdowns. Tim Benford caught four of those passes for 38 yards. Dontey Gay carried the ball four times for 47 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown run.

The Golden Eagles took care of the football in the first 30 minutes, finishing the half with no turnovers.

Third quarter notes

The Panthers were able to take the opening drive of the second half into Tech territory, but the Golden Eagle defense buckled down, and forced an EIU field goal, putting EIU up 24-10.

Tech was able to take the ball deep into EIU territory on a 75 yard drive that took the Golden Eagles to the two yard line, but three straight Tech runs were stopped, and the Golden Eagles settled for a field goal, pulling within 24-13.

Dontey Gay's 67 rushing yards at the end of the third quarter gives him a new season and career high. His previous high was 49 yards against Tennessee State on Nov. 1.

Fourth quarter notes

Tech suffered its first turnover of the game when freshman wide receiver Tim Benford coughed up the ball after catching a pass from Lee Sweeney, EIU recovered the fumble.

On a late Tech touchdown drive, Sweeney passed the 200-yard passing mark for the third time this season. He threw for 324 against Austin Peay, and 229 against Southeast Missouri.