Defense dominates as Tech tops Panthers, 34-20

Defense dominates as Tech tops Panthers, 34-20

Post-game video of Watson Brown

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Sophomore Marcus Edwards (photo below left) tied a school record with five of the team's eight quarterback sacks while Caleb Mitchell (pictured at right) had two of the team's four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, as the Tennesse Tech defense led the Golden Eagles to a 34-20 Ohio Valley Conference victory over Eastern Illinois Saturday night in Tucker Stadium.

The Golden Eagles (3-4/2-2 OVC) limited EIU to 39 net rushing yards, equaling a school mark with eight quarterback sacks and forcing six turnovers. The Panthers (0-7/0-5 OVC) lost their ninth in a row dating back to last season.

Senior Jocques Crawford rushed for a career-high 127 yards and two touchdowns and Dontey Gay added 68 yards on the ground as the Golden Eagles piled up a season-high 233 rushing yards.

Panther quarterback Brandon Large came off the bench to rally his squad back from a 17-7 deficit to tie the game at 17-17 in the third quarter. He passed for 183 yards and one touchdown but was sacked seven times and was intercepted twice.

Rashad Haynes gave the visitors an early 7-0 lead with a 46-yard punt return midway in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, Mitchell picked off a pass by EIU starter Jimmy Garappolo and returned it 36 yards for the tying score.

Six minutes later, Matthew Barker kicked a 43-yard field goal to put Tech on top, 10-7. Barker finished the way with 10 total points, including a 25-yard field goal and four PATs.

Later in the half, WIll Johnson forced a fumble and Marty Jones recovered at the EIU 17, and six plays later Crawford bullied his way into the end zone from the one to make it a 17-7 Golden Eagle lead with less than a minute to play before at halftime.

Eastern Illinois, the defending OVC champion, marched 29 yards into field goal range and Cameron Berra split the uprights from 42 yards to make it 17-10 at the break.

The Panthers opened the second half with a 13-play, 72-yard scoring drive to tie the game on a four-yard TD pass from Large to Cody Bruns.

Tech answered with a nearly identical drive, moving 71 yards in eight plays to regain the lead. Tre Lamb pushed into the end zone from the two for his first career rushing touchdown, after Gay had picked up 42 yards in the drive on two long carries.

Up 24-17 heading into the fourth quarter, the Golden Eagles added a two-yard TD from Crawford on the first play of the final stanza to make it a 31-17 lead. It capped a 10-play, 87-yard scoring drive.

After Barker's second field goal made it 34-17, the Panthers added a 43-yard field goal by Berra with 8:18 to play to make it 34-20. EIU made things interesting, marching deep into Tech territory before Mitchell grabbed his second interception of the contest, picking off a pass in the end zone to halt the threat.

Dustin Dillehay grabbed the fourth interception of the game for Tech in the final two minutes, picking off a pass at the Tech 30 and returning it 35 yards into EIU territory, where Tech ran out the clock.

Kelechi Ordu topped the Tech defense in tackles with 11, while Richmond Tooley added 10 stops and Johnson had nine tackles and caused a fumble. Mitchell finished with seven total tackles, a quarterback sack, a tackle-for-loss, two interceptions and also caused one fumble. Justin Vann had a quarterback sack and an interception.

Gordy Kickells led EIU with 11 tackles and Nick Nasti added 10 stops.

The Golden Eagles head to Nashville next week to face Tennessee State. Kickoff in LP Field is at 6 p.m.

Pregame Notes

* Tennessee Tech (2-4/1-2 OVC) looks to win back-to-back games while Eastern Illinois (0-6/0-4 OVC) hopes to break an eight-game losing streak that dates back to last season. EIU has won five in a row over the Golden Eagles.

* This is the 17th meeting between these two teams, with EIU owning a 12-4 lead in the series. Tech's last win was a 40-37 overtime Homecoming victory in Tucker Stadium in 2004. EIU quarterback Matt Schabert rallied the Panthers to two late fourth quarter touchdowns to force the overtime.

* Tech ranks first in the OVC in passing efficiency vs. league opponents, while EIU ranks first in pass efficiency defense.

* Tech did not have a turnover last week against Austin Peay, the third time this season that the Golden Eagles did not lose the ball. Last season at Eastern Illinois, Tech suffered five turnovers in a 23-15 loss.

* Henry Sailes needs 45 yards in kickoff returns to set the school record for most kickoff return yards in a career. He has 1,374 and is chasing the record of 1,418 held by Gerald Bentley.

* The teams will be warming up in 66-degree weather, with the temperature at kick-off expected to drop to 59 degrees with sundown. By the conclusion of the game, temperatures will have reached a low of about 48 degrees. Chances of rain are slim at 10% all evening, and winds will come in the form of a slight breeze from the north at 4 mph.

First Quarter Notes:

* Eastern Illinois won the coin toss and deferred; Tennessee Tech will receive at the North end of the field.

* EIU attempts an onside kick, received by no. 7 Demetrous Garrett at the 49. The Golden Eagles advanced to the Panther's 42, but quarterback Tre Lamb fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by EIU at the 42.

* Tech was forced to punt from the 11 yard line, and no. 26 Rashad Haynes returned the 46 yard kick for a touchdown. The extra point left the score 7-0 with 7:27 left in the first quarter.

* Another onsides kick by no. 58 Cameron Berra to Garrett at the EIU 44-yard line. Lamb pitched to no. 25, Dontay Gay, who rushed to the 39 for a 5-yard gain. No. 16 Zack Zieglar got the first down for the Golden Eagles at the TTU 33. Lamb kept the ball but was halted at the 35, and followed up with a pass to Garrett at the 30-yard line for a 5-yard pick-up. At fourth and seven, no. 91 Matthew Barker came out for a career-long 47-yard field goal attempt, which he was unable to convert.

Second Quarter Notes:

* With 12:07 left in the second quarter, no. 15 Caleb Mitchell intercepted a pass at the Tech 36 yard line, which he returned for a touchdown. Barker's extra point tied the game at seven-all. The interception makes Mitchell's third career interception and second against Eastern Illinois.

* First down at the Tech 33 plus a personal foul puts the Panthers on the Tech 18. On third and six from the 14, no. 35 Justin Vann intercepted Jimmy Garappolo's pass at the Tech 8 yard line, returning it to the Tech 12 where he was forced out of bounds. The pick was Vann's career fourth.

* Lamb carried the ball to the 28 yard line for a first down, and followed up with another carry for nine yards to the 37. Zieglar gets the first down. A penalty on the Tech 55 spots the Golden Eagles at the EIU 40, where a handoff to Cody Forbes yielded another 14 yards for Tech. The Panthers halted Tech at the 33 and Barker posted a 43-yard field goal. The scoring drive was a total of 12 plays for  62 yards in 4:18. With 6:12 left on the clock, Tech leads by a score of 10-7.

* Marcus Edwards got his fourth sack of the season to force the Panthers to punt from the 19. The ball was spotted at the TTU 35. Edwards currently leads the team in sacks.

* Tech recovered a fumble forced by Will Johnson recovered by Marty Jones on the 17. The Golden Eagles put on a 6-play, 17 yard scoring drive in 2:37, capped off by Crawford rushing for a 1-yard touchdown. Barker's extra point made the score 17-7 with 48 seconds left on the clock.

* EIU proceeded to put on a seven play, 29-yard drive in 43 seconds capped off by a field goal by Cameron Berra to end the half with a score of 17-10 at the end of the half.

Third Quarter Notes:

* The Panthers started off the quarter with a 13 play, 72 yard scoring drive in 5:59 to make the score 17-16. A false start on the offense moved the ball back to the eight yard line for a re-kick on the extra point, but Berra tied the game at 17-all with 8:46 left on the clock.

* Dontey Gay rushed for 42 yards and the Panthers shouldered a 15-yard penalty to foster a 2:32 scoring drive by the Golden Eagles. A quarterback keep by Lamb gave Tech the touchdown to complete the 71-yard answer in 8 plays, 2:32 with 6:16 left on the clock.

Fourth Quarter Notes:

* Jocques Crawford (photo at left) rushed for a two yard touchdown to kick off the fourth quarter, capping off a 10-play,  87-yard drive that took a total of 4:02.

* At the Tech 20, no. 15 Caleb Mitchell sacked Garappolo, forcing a fumble that was recovered by no. 5 Jamere Hogue at the Tech 13. The Panthers held Tech to a field goal attempt which Barker converted to make the score 34-17 with 12:56 left on the clock.

* Edwards recorded his second sack of the game at the TTU 32 to push the Panthers back for a loss of six, but a personal foul left the Panthers at first and goal from the six. On second and goal from the five, Edwards earned his third sack of the game and on fourth down, Edwards notched his fourth sack of the game, forcing the Panthers to kick a field goal. The field goal completed an 11-play, 50-yard drive that ate up 4:31 off the clock.

* Edwards is just one away from the school record of five sacks in one game.

* Justin Vann got his second sack of the game at the 14 yard line with 2:56 left on the clock, as the Golden Eagles tried to hold the Panthers in the red zone. At second and goal, Garappolo's pass was intercepted by Mitchell for his second pick of the game with under three minutes left in the game.

* Marcus Edwards tied the school record for sacks in a game by bringing down Garappolo at the EIU 33 with less than a minute to play.

* At the TTU 30, Dustin Dillehay picked off Garappolo and returned the ball to the EIU 35. The ball was spotted back to the 40, and Tech took a knee and the win to close out the game.

Final notes:

* Crawford notched his first career 100+ yard game, and the first 100+ yard game for Tech this season. He was 19-127 on the night.

* Marcus Edwards tied the school record for sacks in a single game with five.

* With 233  rushing, the Golden Eagles have logged a season record in rushing yards.

* The Golden Eagles held EIU for 43 rushing yards.

* Tech had three interceptions total on the game and forced five turnovers, turning the ball over once themselves for a +4 turnover margin.

* With eight sacks on the night, TTU tied the school record for total sacks in a game.