COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Young players made huge plays to set the tone and Tennessee Tech scored on nine of its first 10 possessions to roll to a 63-7 opening night victory Thursday in non-conference action over Cumberland University in a very crowded Tucker Stadium.
Sophomore return man Ladarius Vanlier (in photo) was an absolute monster all over the field, despite playing just one half in the Golden Eagle victory. He earned his first career rushing score, scampering 52 yards to give Tech a 21-0 lead early in the second frame. Vanlier also broke a Tech record for longest punt return, taking one 93 yards to the house in the second quarter. He finished with 188 all-purpose yards in the half.
Junior quarterback Darian Stone made the most of his opportunities, connecting on eight of his 11 pass attempts for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 36 yards on the ground on eight carries with two rushing scores. His four total touchdowns were a single-game high for the Clinton, Tenn. native.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Davis made his Golden Eagle debut and started his Tech career off on a high note. Davis connected with receiver Colton Belew for a 39-yard score on his only pass attempt of the game.
Tech totaled 323 rushing yards as well as 182 yards through the air to mark the sixth time in head coach Watson Brown's tenure that the offense accounted for at least 500 yards. Tech finished with 505 yards of total offense while Cumberland had 179, with 128 rushing and 51 through the air.
The 56-point victory set a program mark as the largest opening day win in school history.
Freshman Maleek Hall made a sensational diving catch in the end zone, grabbing a 16-yard toss from Stone for the game's first score on the opening drive, a 10-play, 54-yard march after Vanlier opened the contest with a 44-yard kickoff return.
Following a four-yard TD run by Stone for a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter, Vanlier scored back-to-back touchdowns with a 52-yard run and his 93-yard punt return.
"I think he ran a mile on that return," kidded Brown in his post-game comments.
Cody Matthews added a leaping catch against the sideline in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown pass from Stone with 27 seconds left in the half for a 35-0 lead at halftime.
Stone went nine yards and Stephen Bush 10 for third quarter touchdowns before Davis took over in the pocket. The first pass of his career was a perfectly thrown ball down the middle of the field that fellow redshirt freshman Colton Belew grabbed for the first catch of his career, a 39-yard TD to make it 56-0.
The final score was a seven-yard run by freshman Isaiah McKinney to cap off a nine-play, 75 yard scoring drive in which Cody Forbes did much of the damage. Forbes, returning from an injury redshirt season, had a career-best 69 rushing yards on eight carries to top Tech's balanced ground attack.
In addition to Forbes, Bush, Vanlier and sophomore Radir Annor all netted 51 yards and McKinney added 47.
With 71 players seeing action in the game, 32 different Golden Eagles made tackles. With so many players seeing action, nobody posted big numbers as sophomore Bill Dillard and junior Tra'Darius Goff leading the tackle chart with seven each.
Cory Webber and Avery Rollins each notched their first career interceptions, while Malcolm Mitchell had a team-best 1.5 tackles-for-loss, one quarterback sack and forced a fumble. Rollins, Cory McDonald and Jimmy Laughlin also had sacks.
* For the first time since his head coaching debut at Tennessee Tech, Watson Brown will face off against the Cumberland Bulldogs.
* Coach Brown earned his first victory as the Golden Eagle head man as Tech took down Cumberland, 45-21, in 2007.
* Last time these two squads met, current Tech assistant coach Dewayne Alexander was the head coach of the Bulldogs.
* Tech has not lost a home-opener in Watson Brown's six seasons as the Golden Eagle head coach.
* The Golden Eagles will don gold pants, white jerseys, and tweaked version of their gold helmets from last season. They now feature the TTU logo as opposed to the eagle wings.
* Twelve players make up the 2013 senior class.
* Eight of the 11 starters on offense have starting experience, while Matthew Smith, Randall Reeves, and Krys Cates will make their Golden Eagle debuts.
* Seven players have starting experience on the defensive side of the ball. Avery Rollins, Jay Rudwall, Midoho Okpokowuruk, and Cory Webber will all make their first career starts tonight.
* Game-time temperature is a humid 87 degrees with light to no wind and very cloudy skies.
* Cumberland enters tonight's contest ranked as the No. 25 NAIA team in the nation. They finished 8-3 in 2012.
* The Golden Eagles are coming off an injury-riddled 3-8 season.
* Tonight's game captains for the Golden Eagles are #60 James Normand, #94 Malcolm Mitchell, #16 Zack Ziegler, and #99 Jordan Johnson.
* Cumberland has won the toss and deferred to the second half.
* A likely power surge has left the game clock and play clock nonfunctioning for tonight's contest.
* Today marked Tech football's newest tradition, the Running of the Freshman, as the newest members of Tennessee Tech University helped President Oldham lead the team out on the field before the game.
* The stands are PACKED! Thanks to all of those fans who made it to the game tonight! We also thank all those fans who were unable to attend, but are following the updates and live stats!
FIRST QUARTER NOTES
* And the 2013 season is underway as Ladarius Vanlier returns the kickoff for 44 yards!
* Golden Eagles running the ball well here in the first series as they are marching down the field quickly.
* TOUCHDOWN!!!! Junior quarterback Darian Stone hits a diving Maleek Hall for the first score of the season! Hall, a true freshman, dove in the right corner for the 16-yard score.
* INTERCEPTION!!!! Junior Cory Webber makes a great pick to give Tech the ball at the 32-yard line!
* Huge pass by Stone to sophomore receiver Krys Cates. He nabs a bomb from Stone for a 46-yard gain and puts the Golden Eagles in the red zone!
* TOUCHDOWN!!!! Darian Stone leaps into the endzone over a Bulldog defender and Tech now leads 14-0 with just over three minutes to go in the first quarter.
* Zach Sharp has just converted his 61st PAT in-a-row, adding to his school record.
* At the end of the first quarter, the Golden Eagles lead the Bulldogs 14-0.
SECOND QUARTER NOTES
* SACK!!!! Cory McDonald and Avery Rollins crush Cumberland quarterback Reed Gurchiek on fourth down to force a turnover-on-downs.
* The sack marks the first for both McDonald and Rollins of their careers.
* TOUCHDOWN!!!! Ladarius Vanlier breaks free for a 52-yard TD run and Tech now leads 21-0 with 12:30 to go in the first half.
* The score marks the first on the ground for Vanlier in his career.
* SACK!!! Jimmy Laughlin racks up his first career sack!
* TOUCHDOWN!!!!! Ladarius Vanlier returns a Cumberland punt 93-yards to put the Golden Eagles up 28-0!
* It marks the longest punt return in Tech history and the first punt return touchdown of Vanlier's career. It is also the ninth longest scoring play of any kind in program history.
* Tech takes over the ball with 2:27 to go in the half.
* Vanlier already has 188 all-purpose yards this half. The record is 312 by Larry Schreiber in 1969.
* TOUCHDOWN!!!!! Cody Matthews with a diving in grab in the left corner of the endzone! Stone connects with Matthews for the 26-yard score and Tech now leads 35-0.
* At the half, the Golden Eagles lead Cumberland 35-0.
* QB Darian Stone went a remarkable 8-for-10 in the first half, racking up 143 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
* Stone also has eight yards on the ground with a score.
* Ladarius Vanlier leads Tech in rushing with 51 yards in the first stanza of the game.
* Krys Cates is the top receiver for Tech, hauling in two passes for 63 yards receiving.
* Cody Matthews has added three receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown.
THIRD QUARTER NOTES
* SACK!!! On third down, Malcolm Mitchell hits the Cumberland quarterback and forces a fumble. The Bulldogs recover and will punt after a three-and-out.
* The Golden Eagles are moving the ball quickly and efficiently, working their way into the redzone.
* TOUCHDOWN!!!!! Darian Stone swings around the right side and squeezes into the endzone on a nine-yard scamper. Tech now leads 42-0 with 10:55 to go in the third quarter.
* INTERCEPTION!!!! Malcolm Mitchell tips a pass by Bulldog QB Reed Gurchiek and Avery Rollins pulls it in for the pick!
* TOUCHDOWN!!!! Stephen Bush finds his way into the endzone on a 10-yard run and Tech now leads 49-0.
* Redshirt freshman quarterback Jared Davis makes his Golden Eagle debut in place of Darian Stone.
* TOUCHDOWN!!!!! The first career pass of Jared Davis goes for a 39-yard score with Colton Belew on the reception! It also marks the first career reception for Belew.
* Tech now leads 56-0 with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter.
* Cumberland turns the ball over on downs and Tech takes over on its own 25-yard line with 1:00 to go in the third quarter.
* Tech leads 56-0 at the end of the third quarter.
FOURTH QUARTER NOTES
* Running back Cody Forbes has now rushed for a career-high 69 yards after a 22-yard scamper to bring Tech into the redzone.
* TOUCHDOWN!!!! Isaiah McKinney with his first career touchdown after a his seven-yard carry takes him to paydirt. Tech now leads 63-0 with 10:54 to go in the game.
* Cumberland is making a run towards its first score of the game. The Bulldogs have just entered the redzone for the first time of the game.
* The Bulldogs get in the endzone and Tech's lead is trimmed down to 63-7 with 5:09 remaining.
* McKinney with a big carry. He crosses the 50-yard line with a 21-yard rush.
* Tech will take a knee to end the game and the Golden Eagles win 63-7.
* The win marks the largest margin of victory for a Tech team in a season-opener in program history.