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October 23, 2010

Golden Eagles get "special" win at Tennessee State

Click to see Coach Brown celebrating the victory with the team post-game

Sailes sets school record for career kick return yards

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It turned out to be a special kind of victory Saturday night at LP Field as the Tennessee Tech special teams provided the big plays in a 21-10 Ohio Valley Conference victory for the Golden Eagles.

With the win, Tech (4-4/3-2 OVC) has now won three consecutive games and brought its overall record back to .500. It also lifted Tech to a 3-2 record in conference play and gave Tech a 2-1 record in its defense of the Sgt. York Trophy.

Tennessee State (3-5/0-4 OVC) lost its fourth straight conference game for the first time in school history.

Junior all-OVC receiver Tim Benford caught two touchdown passes from Tre Lamb and sophomore Zack Ziegler (photo below left) added another scoring reception to account for Tech's 21 points.

The defense also made some huge contributions to the victory by stopping the Tigers in the red zone.

But it was the special teams that proved the difference.

Tech's first touchdown came after Alden Olverson (photo above right) blocked a Tiger punt deep in TSU territory. It was Tech's first blocked kick of this season and the 14th in coach Watson Brown's four seasons at the helm.

That led to a 22-yard TD strike from Lamb to Benford to give Tech a 7-3 lead in the second quarter.

After TSU had regained the lead with an 84-yard touchdown connection between Jeremy Perry and Calvin McNairl, a 38-yard kickoff return by Henry Sailes put the Golden Eagle offense in motion at midfield for the final minute of the half. Lamb marched Tech to the six, where he found Ziegler on the sidelines and the hard-nosed sophomore fought his way into the end zone for a 14-10 halftime lead.

The kick return by Sailes allowed him to break the school record for most career kick return yards.

Tech added a second Lamb-to-Benford touchdown with 3:01 remaining in the third quarter to make it 21-10.

The other ingredient in the success of the special teams was junior punter Nick Campbell, who averaged 45 yards on six kicks, including four downed inside the Tiger 20-yard line. He had a long kick of 60 yards, and twice in the fourth quarter pinned TSU deep inside its own territory.

Tech had just 200 yards in total offense, with 107 on the ground and 93 through the air, but the Golden Eagles scored when they had their chances. Tennessee State, meanwhile, had 361 yards of offense, getting 158 on the ground and 203 through the air. Dante' Thomas rushed for 75 yards on 18 carries to top the ground game, while McNairl finished with nine receptions for 131 yards.

Senior linebacker Kelechi Ordu topped the tackle chart for Tech with eight and Will Johnson added seven. Richmond Tooley had six tackles, broke up a pass and caused a fumble while Dustin Dillehay had five tackles and broke up two passes.

The Golden Eagles get a week off to heal some injuries, and return to play on Nov. 6 when they travel to Murray State. Tech wraps up the regular season with back-to-back home games against Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 13) and Jacksonville State (Nov. 20).

PREGAME NOTES

* Tech and TSU meet for the 25th time since the in-state rivalry began in 1985. Tech won last year's game, 20-13, on a late TD pass from Lee Sweeney to Tim Benford. The win allowed Tech to clinch the Sgt. York Trophy. TSU still owns a 14-9 advantage in the all-time series.

* Henry Sailes needs just 35 yards in kickoff returns to break the school career record. The mark is 1,418 yards set by Gerald Bentley. Sailes had 1,383 yards.

* Jocques Crawford rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns last week, after getting two touchdowns and 70 yards the week before.

* Marcus Edwards was in on a school-record five quarterback sacks last week, and is currently leading the OVC with 8.5 sacks in 2010. The school record is 10 sacks in a season held by Branon Vaughn, Shane Queen and D.J. Bleisath.

* The Golden Eagles are decked out in all-white uniforms with the purple and gold stripes on the pants and shoulders. Tennessee State is wearing all-blue uniforms. Both teams are wearing white helmets.

Weather for the game is practically perfect in every way. Clear skies, light breeze and temperature of 70 degree.

FIRST QUARTER NOTES

* On the second play from scrimmage, Zack Ziegler and tackler Justin Bather collided helmet-to-helmet and each left the game woozy. Tre Lamb's long pass into the end zone was intercepted by Marquez Hall for a touchback.

* On the Tigers' first possession, the Tech defense held on three downs to force a punt,  Alden Olverson jumped offsides to give TSU a first down. The Tigers used a 31-yard run by Dante' Thomas to move into Tech territory and eventually earned a first-and-goal from the 10. Marcus Edwards came up with the tackle on third down, holding TSU to a 21-yard field goal by Jamin Godfrey for a 3-0 lead with 6:47 remaining in the first period. The drive covered 76 yards in 12 plays and chewed 5:37 off the clock.


SECOND QUARTER NOTES

* The special teams set up Tech's first score, and Olverson redeemed himself for the offsides play earlier on a TSU punt. The junior receiver burst through to block a Tiger punt at the TSU 26. The Tigers recovered and Antonio Harper nearly gained the first down but came up short.

* Lamb needed just three plays to get his offense into the end zone, finding a wide open Tim Benford for a 22-yard touchdown strike and a 7-3 Golden Eagle lead with 12:29 left in the half.

* The teams traded punts a couple times each, with Nick Campbell delivering a 45-yard kick and a 58-yard kick, the second backing TSU up to its own nine-yard line with 2:11 to play.

* On third-and-three, Jeremy Perry found Calvin McNairl on a short pass and the speedy receiver took it 84 yards for a touchdown and a 10-7 TSU lead with 1:03 to play.

* Henry Sailes, (photo left) who had 34 yards combined in his first two kick returns and was one yard shy of the career record, slashed his way for a 38-yard return on the ensuing kickoff to not only break the record, it also set up Tech for a go-ahead score in the final minute.

* Lamb found Ziegler -- he returned to action following the hit on the game's second play -- for a 17-yard completion to get the drive started. Colin Allen grabbed a 16-yard completion and Tech faced a second-and-goal from the 11. A roughing the passer penalty moved the ball to the six with 13 seconds to play. Lamb hit Zielger at the three and his second-effort allowed him to fight his way across the goal line with five seconds left. That gave Tech a 14-10 lead at the half. The scoring drive was 51 yards in seven plays and took 51 seconds.

THIRD QUARTER NOTES

* Tennessee State took the opening kickoff of the second half and marched all the way to the Tech seven, a 60-yard drive, but Tech stopped the Tigers and forced a field goal attempt. The 24-yard kick by Godfrey was wide right. TSU had the ball for 11 plays and 5:15 before coming up empty.

* The Golden Eagle offense hammered together an 80-yard touchdown drive in 15 plays to build the Tech lead to 21-10. The drive lasted 6:39, and ended when Benford snared his second TD of the game. After Lamb and Benford missed on second down on a fade route to the right corner as Marquez Hall broke up the attempt. Tech called the same play and this time, Benford went up for the catch on the three-yard pass.

FOURTH QUARTER NOTES

* Tennessee State opened a drive in the thd quarter and continued it into the fourth, moving all the way from its own 13 to the Tech six. The drive included a fake field goal that picked up a first down, but the defense held. Tommy McBride sacked TSU quarterback Jeremy Perry on third-and-goal, and TSU tried another field goal. This time, Godfrey's 31-yard attempt sailed wide right and Tech's lead remained at 21-10.

* The Tigers, running a hurry-up system, got into Tech territory but were stopped at the 49. Tech's offense, playing conservatively, went three-and-out, and Nick Campbell punted it out of bounds at the TSU three.

* Marty Jones grabbed is third interception of the season, picking off a long TSU pass attempt at the Tiger 40.