March 24, 2013

Six home games, visit to Wisconsin highlight 2013 Tech football schedule

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COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – At this time of year, nearly every college football coach in the country is excited about the upcoming season. Tennessee Tech's Watson Brown is no exception as he heads into his seventh season at the helm of the Golden Eagles.

But the schedule that awaits the 2013 Golden Eagles has a good portion of concern mixed in with the excitement Brown is feeling. Considering the teams and destinations listed on Tech's 12-game slate, it's understandable.

Tech will host six outstanding home games in Tucker Stadium, faces a non-conference slate that includes a visit to Wisconsin of the Big Ten Conference and a new foe in Indiana State, and conference road games at some of the most difficult places to play.

The 12-game Golden Eagle football schedule was announced this week by head coach Watson Brown and TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson.

"This is a really good, really tough schedule," Brown said. "In fact, it might be one of the toughest and best home schedules in Tech history.

"We play four in-state schools and possibly two that will be ranked that are the out-of-state teams coming here," he added.

And, what a season it will be with Tech facing challenges every single week.

Tech opens with a Thursday night home game against Cumberland University, and then faces back-to-back road games at Wisconsin and Hampton. Two home games against Tennessee State and Indiana State lead into the month of October, which includes road games at the OVC's two Kentucky schools, Murray State and Eastern Kentucky. During the month, Tech host visits from a pair of strong OVC foes in UT Martin and Jacksonville State.

November includes two straight road games and an open date before the regular season finale in Tucker Stadium against Austin Peay.

The season gets underway under the lights in Tucker Stadium with an Aug. 29 visit by the Cumberland University Bulldogs, a team that also opened the 2007 Tech home schedule and drew the largest opening day crowd in Tucker Stadium history. Cumberland will be under the direction of first-year head coach Donnie Suber, who took over the program in January when Dewayne Alexander joined Brown's coaching staff.

Under Alexander, Cumberland ended the 2012 season ranked 19th nationally in the NAIA Football Coaches' Postseason Top 25 Poll. The Bulldogs finished the year 8-3 overall, the second eight-win season in three years, making the Bulldogs the winningest college football program in the state of Tennessee (among 17 institutions) over the last three years.

"This will be a game we had better be prepared for," Brown said. "They will be prepared, there's no question about that. We should see a really nice crowd for this game."

In week two, Tech steps up a classification Sept. 7 to play at defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin, the second Big Ten challenge for the Golden Eagles in three seasons. The Badgers demolished Nabraska, 70-31, in the Big Ten championship game before falling to Stanford, 20-14, in the Rose Bowl. It will be the third consecutive season that Tech faces a Rose Bowl participant.

The game will be played in historic Camp Randall Stadium, with a sell-out crowd of 80,321 expected.

"This will be our second Big Ten team, and we're really looking forward to it," Brown said. "They have a new head coach (Gary Anderson from Utah State), so we don't know a lot about the team. We do know that they've been a hard-hitting, power team. We don't expect that to change.

"One of the major reasons that I love these (FBS) games is that I think we've played better on the road in the conference because of the big-time atmosphere we've played in the past few years," Brown said.

From the Midwest to the East coast, the Golden Eagles follow their Wisconsin contest with a visit to Hampton University on Sept. 14. Last year, Tech got ahead early, then weathered a comeback effort from the Pirates for a 41-31 victory.

"This will be a good game," Brown said. "They are a very good looking team that is loaded with great athletes. We got up quickly against them but they made it a good game last year."

Tech returns home Sept. 21 to open the OVC slate against Tennessee State.

"This will be the first time since I've been here that we've opened our conference schedule at home," Brown said. "It will be a change for us, and we're really excited about that. We're playing a York Trophy game early, which is something else we've never done.

"We've had some really outstanding games against Tennessee State recently," he said. "The last two games combined have seen a total three points difference, and I expect another close game this time."

The Golden Eagles will have a little score to settle in this one. The Tigers defeated Tech, 21-20, as time expired last season in Nashville on a play that OVC officials later announced should not have counted.

With back-to-back home games for the only time in the season, Tech remains in Tucker Stadium Sept. 28 to host a brand new opponent when Indiana State visits. The Sycamores boast two of the best offensive players in the nation and could be an FCS Top 25 team. Last year, ISU posted a 7-4 overall record that included a 17-14 road victory at FCS championship game participant North Dakota State.

After hosting Indiana State, Tech settles into a stretch of seven OVC games, including three at home. It begins with a game Oct. 5 at Murray State, where Tech suffered a 70-35 loss last season to the Racers.  Tech's home schdule resumes wth a Thursday night visit from UT Martin on Oct. 10. The Golden Eagles edged the Skyhawks in overtime when a botched PAT cost UTM the OVC championship.

The Golden Eagles play at Eastern Kentucky on Oct. 19, host Jacksonville State for Tech's annual Homecoming game on Oct. 26, then face road games at defending OVC champion Eastern Illinois (Nov. 2) and Southeast Missouri (Nov. 9). The team has an open date on the agenda on Nov. 16, before the regular season wraps up when Austin Peay visits Tucker Stadium on Nov. 23. The Golden Eagles fell to the Governors last year in Clarksville when a fourth quarter rally came up short.

Starting times and special events will be announced later. Season tickets may be ordered now by visiting the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or calling (931) 372-3940.