Gutsy effort not quite enough as Golden Eagles fall by 11 at Murray State


By Mike Lehman, Tennessee Tech Sports Information Coordinator
By Rob Schabert, Tennessee Tech Sports Information Director

MURRAY, Ky. – Watson Brown's message to his team was clear and simple. The Golden Eagles will be ready to play in five days against UT Martin in Tucker Stadium.

The veteran coach didn't spend much time dwelling on the 35-24 loss Saturday at Murray State. Every player on the roster knew exactly what had happened, giving opportunity after opportunity to the Racers.

In fact, opportunity didn't just knock, it banged on the door and the host Racers were happy to answer with several big plays on the way to an 11-point Ohio Valley Conference victory in Stewart Stadium.

The Racers (4-2/2-0) scored on an 88-yard punt return and a 22-yard fumble return. Tech also gave up touchdown plays of 55- and 56-yards on pass plays underneath in which the Golden Eagles missed a plethora of tackles.

Still, against all odds, Tech (3-3/0-2) was still battling in the final minutes after falling behind 21-0 in the first half.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Davis, making his first start in place of injured Darian Stone, was 26-for-42 passing for 207 yards, while sophomore tailback Ladarius Vanlier rushed for 97 yards on 13 carries. Senior Zack Ziegler caught a career-high 12 passes for 85 yards, the second-highest reception total in school history.

But Davis was knocked out in the fourth quarter and the Golden Eagles turned to freshman Trent Thompson, who shed his redshirt status for the final two minutes of the game.

The Racers jumped on top when Walter Powell returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown just three minutes into the game. Four minutes later, Duane Brady scored on a four-yard run to cap a short, 57-yard drive for a 14-0 lead. Early in the second quarter, Powell grabbed a pass and eluded tacklers for a 55-yard TD and a 21-0 lead.

Davis and the Golden Eagles finally got untracked and managed a 44-yard scoring drive, culminating in a one-yard plunge by Davis to make it 21-7.

Tech had the ball to open the second half, looking to close the difference, but a fumble at the Tech 25 bounced directly into the hands of Josh Manning, who took it 22 yards to paydirt for a 28-7 lead.  

Again, the Golden Eagle offense showed some fight, moving 61 yards in three plays, with Davis racing in from the eight to make it 28-14. Vanlier's 48-yard run was the big play in the possession.

Powell snared another pass, this one on the sideline in front of the Tech bench. Several Golden Eagles surrounded him, but somehow he popped out of the pile and raced 59 yards for his third TD of the game and a 35-14 lead with 6:16 remaining in the third quarter.

Tech scored the final two times in the game, first on a 38-yard field goal by Zach Sharp to make it 35-17, followed by a 38-yard burst down the sidelines by Stephen Bush. That play came on fourth-and-one and capped a 63-yard, seven play drive.

The Tech defense did a sensational job in the fourth quarter, limiting Murray State to 62 yards of offense and forcing three consecutive punts.

One Tech possession ended when a tipped pass was intercepted. Davis also moved the team all the way from the MSU 15, but he was injured and replaced by Thompson. Seeing his first action of the season, Thompson found a way to get Tech a first-and-goal at the two, but couldn't punch it in. It was the first time in 20 red zone possessions this year that the Golden Eagles didn't produce points.

The Golden Eagle offense managed 93 plays and 363 yards of total offense, with 152 on the ground and 211 through the air. Murray State had 411 yards of offense, with 105 rushing and 306 passing. Tech also had 37 minutes of possession time compared with 23 for the Racers. The Tech defense held MSU to 3-of-15 on third down conversions.

Davis finished 26-for-42 for 207 yards while Ziegler had 12 catches for 85 yards. Maleek Hall added five catches for 51 yards.

Mikhail Miller was 31-for-42 passing for 306 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked three times. Powell finished the game with eight receptions for 177 yards and 310 all-purpose yards.

Tra'Darius Goff was the tackles leader for Tech with eight, along with causing a fumble. Marty Jones made six tackles and his seventh career interception. Jimmy Laughlin also made six tackles including a quarterback sack and two tackles-for-loss.

The Golden Eagles regroup next week to host UT Martin in a Thursday night game in Tucker Stadium. The 7 p.m. CDT contest will be Golden Eagle Blackout II.

For tickets, contact the Athletics Ticket Office in Eblen Center or call (931) 372-3940.




PREGAME NOTES

- Since 1930, Tennessee Tech and Murray State have met a whopping 79 times, with the Golden Eagles holding a 42-35-1 advantage.
- The Racers own the recent edge in the series, having won each of the last three contest.
- Redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Davis will make his first career start today after making late game appearances in each of the last three games. He starts for the injured Darian Stone.
- Both Bill Dillard and Brett Dillard (no relation) will start the game today as well. First time that has happened this season.
- Tech enters today's contest 3-2 with an 0-1 mark in OVC play.
- Murray State also enters the contest with a 3-2 record and are 1-0 in conference play.
- Today's game captains for the Golden Eagles are #40 Seth McDonald, #44 Blake Adams, and #51 Jerry King.
- The Golden Eagles have won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Murray State will receive to start the game.

FIRST QUARTER NOTES
- Zach Sharp kicks off and the game is officially underway.
- SACK!!!! Jimmy Laughlin drills MSU quarterback Maikhail Miller and forces a fumble. Murray recovers the ball for a 16-yard loss!
- The Golden Eagles will take over on their own 40-yard line after a Racer punt.
- Senior Chad Zinchini on to punt and Walter Powell returns the punt 88 yards to the house for Racer touchdown. Murray leads 7-0 with 11:50 to go in the first quarter.
- Zinchini out to punt and scribbles one 47 yards down the field.
- Duane Brady scampers into the endzone from four yards out and Murray State takes a 14-0 lead with 8:06 to play in the first quarter.
- After making three first downs, the Tech offense stalls and Zinchini will punt the ball away.
- The kick goes into the endzone for a touchback. The punt traveled 46 yards.
- INTERCEPTION!!!!! Austin Tallant jumps a route and picks off Miller. Murray State was threatening with the ball at the Tech goal line.
- The Golden Eagles take over on their own two-yard line.
- At the end of the first quarter, the Racers lead Tech, 14-0.

SECOND QUARTER NOTES
- Tech forced to punt and Zinchini boots it 37 yards. The Golden Eagles trying to keep the ball out of the dangerous hands of Walter Powell.
- Powell catches a 55-yard touchdown, dodging, ducking, and spinning his way into the endzone and Murray State extends its lead to 21-0 with 13:05 to go in the first half.
- The Golden Eagles gaining some momentum. They pick up three straight first downs and are moving the ball, crossing the 50-yard line for the first time today.
- Zinchini on to punt after a Racer sack. He puts it into the endzone from 44 yards out for the touchback. There is 8:28 to play in the first half.
- Laughlin continues to have a good game, tackling Nevar Griffin for a two-yard loss.
- SACK!!!! Tra'Darius Goff takes down Miller for an 11-yard loss and Murray will have to punt from its own endzone.
- BIG gain for Tech! Davis connects with Zack Ziegler for 13 yards and the Golden Eagles will get an additional 13 yards on a face mask penalty. They are now in the red zone.
- TOUCHDOWN!!!! Jared Davis sneaks it in from one yard out and Tech cuts the Murray lead to 21-7 with 5:07 to go in the first half.
- Tech forces a Racer punt and will take over on its own two-yard line.
- The Golden Eagles will punt from their own endzone. Zinchini boots it 35 yards to the 50-yard line and Murray is called for an illegal block in the back to move it back to the Racer 40-yard line.
- MSU's Miller catches his own pass after it was tipped and batted back to him. He loses five yards on the play.
- At the end of the first half, Murray State leads Tennessee Tech, 21-7.

HALFTIME NOTES
- Through just one half, Zack Ziegler has already tied his career-high for catches, pulling in eight for 52 yards.
- Davis had a strong first half, going 14-for-18 for 95 yards through the air.
- Davis also has the lone touchdown for Tech, on the ground.

THIRD QUARTER NOTES
- Tech takes the ball to the 24-yard line and we are underway in the second half.
- Davis connects with Ziegler for a seven-yard gain and Ziegler now has a career-high nine catches.
- Murray's Anthony Hayes picks up a Tech fumble and takes it 22 yards to the house. The Racers now lead 28-7 with 14:08 to play in the third quarter.
- Zinchini on for the punt. He kicks it 38 yards downfield and out-of-bounds at the Murray 25-yard line.
- The Racers are forced to punt after a three-and-out and Ladarius Vanlier takes it to the Tech 39-yard line.
- HUGE run by Vanlier!!! He scampers downfield for a 48-yard gain and the Golden Eagles enter the redzone!
- TOUCHDOWN!!!! Davis with a great play-action fake and he runs it eight yards into the endzone, untouched. Tech cuts the Murray lead down to 28-14 with 10:16 to go in the third quarter.
- FUMBLE!!!!! Goff recovers a Racer fumble and foils another redzone attack by Murray!
- Zinchini out to punt and he boots it to the Murray State 28-yard line.
- Walter Powell takes bubble screen pass from Miller 59 yards to the endzone and Murray leads 35-14 with 6:16 to play in the third quarter.
- Ziegler with his 11th reception of the game. That ties him for second most in a single game in Tech history.
- Sharp out to attempt a 38-yard field goal.
- IT'S GOOD!!!! Tech cuts the lead down to 35-17 with 3:13 to play in the third quarter.
- INTERCEPTION!!!!! Marty Jones picks off Miller and takes it the Tech 47-yard line!!!!
- The pick is the seventh of Jones' career.
- Murray's Josh Manning takes the ball back from Tech, intercepting Davis' pass downfield and Murray gets the ball back at its own 28-yard line.
- SACK!!!! Blake Adams takes down Miller for a six-yard loss.
- The Racers are forced to punt and Tech will take over on its own 37-yard line.
- At the end of the third quarter, Murray State leads Tech, 35-17.

FOURTH QUARTER NOTES
- Ziegler hauls in his 12th catch of the day and he now has the second-most in team history.
- TOUCHDOWN!!!!! On fourth-and-one, Stephen Bush races around the outside and breaks one 38 yards into the endzone! Tech cuts the Murray State lead to 35-24 with 12:24 to play.
- Murray has to punt and Tech will take over on its own 15-yard line.
- Brandon Wicks grabs a tipped pass out of the air for an interception and Murray takes over on the Tech 44-yard line.
- The Racers are forced to punt and they put one into the endzone for a touchback.
- Zinchini out for the punt and he crushes one 54 yards to the 10-yard line. Powell loses yards on the return and Murray is backed up inside its own five.
- Murray State out to punt and Vanlier calls for a fair catch at the TTU 25-yard line.
- Two straight first downs has Tech inside the Racer 30-yard line. He connected with Maleek Hall for two long conversions.
- Jared Davis converts another first down with Steve Wilson, but he is injured on the play with an apparent knee injury.
- Trent Thompson will enter the game and make his Golden Eagle debut.
- The Racers take over on their own two-yard line after a turnover-on-downs.
- Murray State defeats Tennessee Tech in a close battle, 35-24.