Next up for the Golden Eagles are Kansas State Wildcats
RICHMOND, Ky. – From the opening kickoff, it was evident that the defenses would decide the Ohio Valley Conference opener between Tennessee Tech and two-time defending league champ Eastern Kentucky.
Despite a heroic effort by the Golden Eagle defense, the Colonels got the game-breaking play late in the third quarter, a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown that turned the tide and led to a 17-7 EKU victory before 10,600 in Roy Kidd Stadium.
Andre Evans stepped in front of a pass that Lee Sweeney intended for Tim Benford on the sidelines, and the Colonel senior raced to the end zone to erase what had been a 7-3 Tech lead for nearly 45 minutes.
Tech’s defense forced three turnovers and blocked a field goal attempt, and the Golden Eagles put a scare into the Colonels, who have gone 15-1 in the conference over the past two seasons. Make that 16-1 for the team picked to repeat in 2009.
Tech took an early 7-0 lead, and was on top 7-3 at halftime. The Golden Eagles held that advantage until the turnover put the lead onto the Colonel side of the scoreboard. EKU added a cushion with a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
After Tech’s defense snuffed the Colonels on the game’s opening series, the offense struck quickly.
Sweeney laid one deep for Benford on Tech’s first offensive series, and the sophomore receiver made a leaping catch at the EKU one-yard line. That set up a six-yard TD run by Hudson with 11:43 to play in the first quarter. Tim Donegan’s kick made it 7-0, and that’s where the score stood until just before halftime.
Tech’s defense forced two turnovers to stop the Colonels in the first half. Richmond Tooley intercepted a pass in the end zone in the first quarter, and on the next series Justin Vann forced a fumble and Travis Adkins recovered at the EKU 42.
EKU kicker Logan O’Connor missed a 42-yard field goal late in the first quarter and Donegan was wide right on a 44-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter.
The Colonels blocked a Golden Eagle punt at the Tech 27 with three minutes to go in the half, leading to a 30-yard field goal by O’Connor to make it 7-3, but the Colonel placekicker also missed a 49-yard try on the final play of the half.
The Golden Eagles halted EKU early in the second half, blocking a field goal attempt but the offense couldn’t take advantage. Minutes later, Howard Griffin forced a fumble and Brandon Harris recovered to put Tech in EKU territory. Again, the Colonel defense held and Donegan’s 33-yard field goal attempt was wide left.
Late in the quarter, with Tech near midfield, Evans made the play that ignited the partisan crowd.
After going up 10-7, the Colonels added a final score with a six-play, 61-yard scoring drive. A 45-yard pass from T.J. Pryor to Shannon Davis moved EKU to the Tech 22, but the Golden Eagles appeared to have the drive stopped.
Facing fourth-and-one at the 13, EKU passed on the chance for another field goal and went for it, and H.B. Banjoman slipped through the line and raced into the end zone for the score.
Tech had two more possessions in the final 13 minutes, both starting deep in its own end of the field. The first started at the 16, and wound up back at the five after Sweeney was sacked. The second started at the Golden Eagle four after the Colonels downed a punt. Backup quarterback Tre Lamb was able to move Tech out to the 34, but that’s where it stalled and EKU ran out the final 2:37.
The Golden Eagles were limited to 204 yards of total offense on 60 plays. Tech had 124 yards on the ground, led by Tremaine Hudson (photo above) with 48 on 12 carries. Sweeney finished 11-for-26 for 97 yards.
Tim Benford, who has caught at least two passes in all 14 games in his career, had five for 92 yards to lead all receivers.
C.J. Walker led the Colonel ground game with 74 yards on 19 tries. T.J. Pryor was 12-for-19 passing for 163 yards. EKU finished with 129 yards on the ground and 203 through the air for 332 in total offense.
The Tech defense held EKU to 3-of-14 on third down tries, but the Colonels were 2-for-2 on fourth down.
Griffin led the Tech defense with 11 tackles.
Tech (1-1) plays at Kansas State University next week.