Golden Eagles face defending champs to open OVC schedule

Golden Eagles face defending champs to open OVC schedule


COOKEVILLE, Tenn. --  Tennessee Tech and Eastern Kentucky get an early start on the 2009 Ohio Valley Conference football race, with the Golden Eagles (1-0) facing the defending league champion Colonels (0-1) Saturday night in Roy Kidd Stadium in Richmond, Ky.

Both teams have had plenty of time to prepare for this game; Tech will be off nine days since its season-opening 51-10 win against Pikeville College (Sept. 10) while the Colonels have had two full weeks after kicking off the year with a near-upset at Indiana (Sept. 5).

Individually, TTU quarterback Lee Sweeney can tie the school record for career TD passes if he connects once for a score against the Colonels.

Fans who aren't able to attend the game can listen to the action on the Golden Eagle Sports Network, with the broadcast airing on Magic 98.5 FM through middle Tennessee. The broadcast will also be available via Free Teamline, on either the Internet or telephone.

A live webstream of the game can also be seen on OVCsports.TV.

The Golden Eagle roster lists only one player from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, sophomore starting runningback Dontey Gay from Lexington

Three Golden Eagles celebrate birthdays this week, including one on game day. Tre Lamb’s big day was Wednesday (Sept. 16) and Cole Cassidy’s on Thursday (Sept. 17). Saturday (Sept. 19) is sophomore quarterback Clint Brewster’s birthday.

The Golden Eagles have a chance to start the season with a 2-0 record for the first time in 20 years. The last time that occurred was 1989, when head coach Jim Ragland led Tech to wins over Lock Haven (38-17) and Chattanooga (28-10) for a 2-0 start before finising 5-5.

Tech opened Ohio Valley Conference play last season with a 29-27 victory over Southeast Missouri on the road in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Three years ago, Tech opened conference play in 2006 with a 27-14 win over Eastern Kentucky in Tucker Stadium for acting head coach Doug Malone.

Since 2000, this will mark the fourth time that Tech opens the conference schedule against the Colonels. Tech is 2-1 in the previous three contests. The Golden Eagles claimed a 9-3 victory in Richmond in 2000, EKU gained a 52-3 win in 2005 on its home field, and Tech posted a 27-14 win in Cookeville  in 2006.

Senior quarterback Lee Sweeney comes into the EKU game with 37 career touchdown passes, just one shy of the school record of 38, set by Robert Craft (2001-04). He also needs 384 yards of total offense to break that school record, as well.

Eastern Kentucky suffered a tough 19-13 loss to BCS foe Indiana to open the season, then had a week off, giving coach Dean Hood’s Colonels plenty of time to heal and prepare for the game against the Golden Eagles. Quarterbacks Cody Watts and T.J. Pryor combined to pass for 276 yards against the Hoosiers, going 17-for-26. The Colonels had two 100-yard receivers, with senior Garnett Phelps posting a career-high 104 yards and Evan Cromer getting nine catches for 124 yards.  The Colonels held Indiana to 73 rushing yards, but the Hoosiers had 326 passing yards.

Eastern Kentucky won last year’s game in Cookeville, 33-12, and owns a commanding 48-17 advantage in the all-time series. Tech’s last win came in 2006, a 27-14 win in Cookeville. Tech’s last win in Richmond was a 9-3 defensive battle in 2000.

Dontey Gay and Tremaine Hudson gave Tech a two-way attack against Pikeville. Gay had 88 yards and two touchdowns in nine carries, while Hudson had 86 yards in 11 carries. They combined for 174 yards in 20 carries. Each had one kickoff return, Gay for 37 yards and Hudson for 38.

Last year, Dontey Gay (776) finished one yard behind Tremaine Hudson (777) in all-purpose yardage. Last week, Gay led Tech with 125 all-purpose yards, one ahead of Hudson’s 124 yards. That makes them even in their career numbers with 901 yards apiece. Both need 91 yards to hit the 1,000 yard career mark.

Sophomore Jimmie Blair made his Golden Eagle debut against Pikeville and took Tech on a four-play, 53-yard fourth quarter scoring drive. Blair had all four carries in the drive, including a 35-yard run and a 15-yard touchdown. He finished with seven carries for 62 yards. Blair, who moved from safety to runningback, hasn’t forgotten how to tackle, getting credit for two tackles on special teams.

Sophomore Howard Griffin led Tech with a career-best eight tackles against Pikeville. One of the team’s most improved players in the spring, Griffin is the starter at BULL linebacker. Last season he made a total of 17 tackles, with a career-high of six.

Among the players making their Golden Eagle defensive debut last week were senior Kelvin Quarles and sophomore Mauricio Wallace, and both were among the four players with five tackles apiece. Wallace moved to cornerback from a wide receiver in the spring. Quarles is a transfer from UAB.

The Golden Eagle defense  forced two turnovers against Pikeville, both interceptions and career-firsts. Senior Brendon Fisher snared as Bear pass on the second play of the game, setting up a 32-yard scoring drive. Junior Dustin Dillehay pulled down a pass that was deflected by Howrd Griffin, and Tech turned that turnover into an 89-yard scoring drive.

Freshman Barry Lenon had Tech’s only quarterback sack in the season opener against Pikeville.

With the knee injury to Derrian Waters, sophomore Justin Vann moves into the starting spot at BANDIT linebacker. Vann had four tackles against Pikeville. True freshman Marcus Edwards moves into the backup role on the two-deep.

Richmond Tooley notched a career-best 13 tackles last year against Eastern Kentucky. Tooley has earned the starting nod at the boundary cornerback position. He started eight games last year as a true freshman. Against Jacksonville State, Tooley had nine tackles. He ranked fifth on the team, finishing with 56 total tackles.

Redshirt freshman  Tim Donegan has earned the job as Tech’s placekicker. Against Pikeville, Donegan made his only field goal attempt (28 yards), was 6-for-7 on PATs, and averaged 63.6 yards on nine kickoffs.