OVC, Sgt. York races begin Saturday as Golden Eagles host Tennessee State

OVC, Sgt. York races begin Saturday as Golden Eagles host Tennessee State

Download/read TTU vs. TSU game notes (PDF)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech football team begins its quest for the OVC and Sgt. York Trophies Saturday night against in-state conference rival Tennessee State, and the Golden Eagles are hoping their fans can recapture the emotion, enthusiasm and excitement that rocked the 98.5 Kiss FM Tailgate Park and packed Tucker Stadium three weeks ago at their home opener.

"Our crowd was fantastic, and they really gave a lift to our players," said seventh-year Golden Eagle head coach Watson Brown. "It was a big crowd, they were enthusiastic. It really makes a big difference, and we'll need as much support as we can get Saturday night. This is a good TSU football team coming in here. We better be ready to play."

There will not be any local TV coverage of the game, since it is being shown on the Internet on ESPN3. The Tailgate Park opens at 4 p.m., and the Golden Eagle Walk, a new tradition that was started three weeks ago, takes place at 4:45 p.m. Kickoff is set for 7:04 p.m.

The game is also Football Legends Night, with former Golden Eagle players invited back. They will be recognized on the field, including a special nod to the 1953 and 1958 OVC Championship squads. (more preview below the video)

Both teams come into the game with 2-1 records in non-conference action, and each is anxious to get started in the right direction toward the OVC title and the Sgt. York trophy. All three OVC in-state opponents must visit Cookeville this season, so a home field advantage will play a role in the trophy hunt.

Tennessee State brings the league's top-ranked defense into the contest. After falling to ranked Bethune-Cookman, 12-9, in the opener, the Tigers have won back-to-back games and the most points they've allowed has been 16. They defeated Florida A&M, 27-7, then topped Jackson State, 26-16. The TSU defense, which has all 11 starters back from the unit that led the OVC in 2012, is led by preseason OVC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-OVC cornerback Stephen Godbolt. He led all of FCS last year with six interceptions.

The Tiger defense, however, is far from a one-man show. Joining Godbolt are second-team all-OVC linebacker Nick Thrasher, second-team all-OVC lineman Antonio Harper, and second-team all-OVC safety Daniel Fitzpatrick.

The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, pulled out a come-from-behind, 30-27 victory at Hampton University last Saturday. Redshirt freshman Jared Davis directed two scoring drives as Tech tied things 20-20, then starter Darian Stone returned to action to lead the team on two more scoring drives for a 30-20 lead. The game-winning points came on a 10-play, 96-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 32-yard pass to Cody Matthews on fourth-and-14.

Tennessee State owns a 16-10 edge in the series that began in 1984, including last-second wins in each of the last two encounters. In 2011, TSU escaped Tucker Stadium with a 45-42 win after Tech had scored and appeared to recover an onsides kick. Last year, TSU scored a tying touchdown as time expired and added the PAT for the difference in a 22-21 victory.

Tickets for the game are available by contacting the Athletics Ticket Office at 931-372-3940. Ticket may also be ordered online at TTUsports.com.

The Tennessee State Aristocrat of Bands will be a special guest at the game, playing a halftime show followed by the halftime show of the Golden Eagle Marching Band. Fireworks will follow the game.