COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A season opener at the University of Iowa and five home games, including another popular Thursday night contest, highlight Tennessee Tech's 2011 football schedule, announced today by Director of Athletics Mark Wilson.
The 10-game schedule awaiting Golden Eagle head coach Watson Brown and his squad in 2011 brings four Ohio Valley Conference opponents to Tucker Stadium, including a season finale on Nov. 19 against in-state rival Austin Peay. The home schedule opens with a non-conference visit from the Maryville College Scots, while OVC teams coming to Cookeville include defending champion Southeast Missouri, Tennessee State, Murray State and APSU.
In addition to the opener against Iowa of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the Golden Eagles face OVC road ventures at Eastern Illinois, UT Martin, Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky.
The Iowa Hawkeyes were 8-5 a year ago, finishing with a 27-24 win over Missouri in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz is in his 13th season as head coach at Iowa. The game will be Tech's first against a Big 10 opponent.
"Iowa is a place that we haven't been, so it will be a neat trip for our players. We have not played a Big 10 team, so it will be another new experience for them," Brown said.
Stepping up to FBS to face Iowa continues Tech's history of challenging larger schools. Last year the Golden Eagles played at Rose Bowl Champion TCU and also faced Sugar Bowl participant Arkansas. In his first three seasons at Tech, Brown's teams played Auburn, Louisville, Western Michigan, Kansas State and Georgia.
Coming home for a Thursday night game to open play in Tucker Stadium, Tech will face an in-state foe when Maryville College visits. Tech has played Maryville College three times in the past, but not since the 1940s when the Golden Eagles won all three meetings. The game against the Scots will be the first between the two teams since 1948.
"It's our first home game and our kids always get excited about that," Brown said. "It's a non-conference game, and we've been successful opening with non-conference opponents. We should have a nice crowd, expectations are high, and it's a neat time of the year."
In week three, Tech opens OVC play with a road game at Eastern Illinois (Sept. 17). It's the first of a difficult slate of road games inside the league.
"It works out so that we always open with a road conference game, and it seems it's always one of the perennially tough teams," Brown said. "You can't win the OVC without winning three or four road games and all your home games, so we'll need to have our team ready to go when we get on the bus to EIU. We haven't been a bad road team the past few years."
The Golden Eagles are back on Overall Field for their second home game on Sept. 24, welcoming a Southeast Missouri team that surprised the league and won the title in 2010.
"SEMO is a big game for us," Brown said. "It's the game that got us a year ago. We went on the road and lost to these guys by two points, and they went on to win the conference. Not only are they the guys who got us, but it's twofold because it's our first home conference game."
Tech follows the SEMO game with a contest at UT Martin, the first of three games for the Sgt. York Trophy as the Golden Eagles bid to regain its hold on the trophy in 2011. The Golden Eagles swept to victories against all three Tennessee OVC schools to win the trophy in 2009, but yielded it last year to the Skyhawks. In the 2011 chase for the Sgt. York Trophy, Tech plays two games at home (Austin Peay and Tennessee State) and one on the road (UT Martin).
"The York trophy is a neat thing, and I think it's growing in competitiveness each year," Brown said. "We know how important it is to us, and how proud we are to have won it. We know those other three are just as excited about the competition as we are, and those games now have added meaning."
Tech hosts just one home game in October, a game against Tennessee State on Oct. 15 sandwiched between a pair of open weekends. The month closes with a game at Jacksonville State on Oct. 29. The Gamecocks will be awaiting Tech's appearance, since it was the Golden Eagles who upset JSU on the final week of the season and cost Jacksonville State a share of the OVC title.
The month of November finds Tech at home for two of three games, beginning with Murray State on Saturday, Nov. 5. Tech travels to Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 12, then closes the regular season at home on Nov. 19 by hosting in-state rival Austin Peay.
"It's great to finish with Austin Peay," Brown said. "They're a rival team, an in-state team and hopefully we'll be playing for a lot. We'd like to be in a position to be playing for the Sgt. York Trophy and the OVC Championship, all in that one game."
Brown said the team's four primary goals remain the same each year.
"We have four goals at the start of the season," Brown said. "One is to have a winning record, two is to win all our home games, three is to win the state championship for the York Trophy, and four is to win the OVC. If we do those four things, we reach the playoffs."
Tennessee Tech officials are also looking at the possibility of adding an 11th game to the schedule.
Season tickets are on sale for the 2011 home schedule. Tickets can be ordered at the Athletic Ticket Office in Eblen Center or by calling (931) 372-3940.
2011 Golden Eagle Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at Iowa Sept. 8 Maryville College (Thursday)
Sept. 17 at Eastern Illinois * Sept. 24 Southeast Missouri *
Oct. 1 at UT Martin * Oct. 8 Open Date Oct. 15 Tennessee State * Oct. 22 Open Date
Oct. 29 at Jacksonville State * Nov. 5 Murray State *
Nov. 12 at Eastern Kentucky * Nov. 19 Austin Peay *