September 5, 2013

For 17th consecutive year, Golden Eagles face FBS foe; Travel to No. 21 Wisconsin


View/download TTU vs. Wisconsin game notes (PDF)

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech football team (1-0) boards a charter flight Friday morning to head to Madison, Wis., where the Golden Eagles will face the No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0), the defending Big Ten champions.

Saturday's 11 a.m. contest in venerable Camp Randall Stadium will mark the 17th consecutive year that the Golden Eagles, a member of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), will step up a classification to challenge a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

That 17-year streak began in 1997, when Tech took a bus ride to Birmingham, Ala., to face UAB, coached by...current Golden Eagle coach Watson Brown.

In his seventh year as Tech head coach, Brown has faced his share of Goliaths from the FBS. After starting with Auburn in 2007, and facing Louisville and Western Michigan in 2008, the Golden Eagles have faced several Top 25 opponents. In 2009, they visited Kansas State and Georgia. In 2010, it was No. 4 TCU and No. 8 Arkansas. The 2011 foe was Iowa, the team's first venture into Big Ten territory.

Last year, it was No. 4 Oregon.

"The players love these games," Brown said. "I hate them. It doesn't do much for your won-loss records. At the same time, it's memories of a lifetime for these guys. They're important games -- the different look Tech has in this progam now, all the things (Director of Athletics) Mark Wilson and I have tried to do have come off these games. You don't generate dollars to do what we've done in any other way. So, they've been very important to us. The kids get great memories -- win, lose or draw."

With an expected sellout of nearly 80,000, the game will rank as one of the largest in attendance in OVC history. But, according to Brown, there shouldn't be that much of an "awe" factor.

"We've done a lot of these games," he said. "It's not like we don't know what we're walking into. Our kids won't be shocked by what we see and who they play against. They have done this before."

The Golden Eagles head into the game with a 1-0 mark after posting a lopsided, 63-7 victory over Cumberland University last Thursday. In that game, Tech rolled up 505 yards of total offense including 323 on the ground, the third-highest rushing game in Brown's six-plus seasons in Cookeville.

Tech was solid in all three phases of the game, with the defense limiting Cumberland to 179 yards of total offense and special teams featuring a 93-yard punt return for touchdown by sophomore Ladarius Vanlier. The Nashville Maplewood High School product also broke off a 52-yard touchdown run, and posted 188 all-purpose yards on only four touches, an average of 47 yards per play.

His quickness has certainly captured the attention of Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen and his staff, who compared Vanlier to Wisconsin speedster Kenzel Doe.

"He does remind me of Kenzel, and he is lightning fast," Anderson said at his weekly press conference. "That was an impressive play I saw, and there was another one where he hit it up the sidelines on kind of what we call a Zorro play in the game, and he outran everybody kind of like they were standing still

"We know he's going to be there, and he's a talented young man. He has very good speed," Andersen added. "There's a couple of other kids out there that play real well. These guys are a threat when they get the ball in their hands. You'd better be closing in on space pretty fast."

Golden Eagle quarterback Darian Stone accounted for four touchdowns against Cumberland, throwing for two and running for two more. Asked if facing Stone might help prepare Wisconsin for facing Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Andersen replied in the affirmative. 

"Well, to play spread teams is good," Andersen said. "It's good for -- potentially, I guess, for Ohio State, Arizona State. We're going to get some of that from Northwestern. You're going to get a taste of it. They're all different. Indiana, whatever it is, as you go through the schedule.

"It is good to be able to play those teams. He is a dual threat quarterback. He runs the ball. They run the ball with the option threat. They run the ball with the true quarterback run game, whether it's the power or the rat play or the o-zone, whatever you want to call it, it's a called quarterback run.

"It will be good preparation for us," he added. "I'm not really worried about the future. I'm worried about defending it against these guys. They had some big plays in this last game with some kids that can really run."

Fans who don't make the journey to the Badger State can listen to all the action on the Golden Eagle Sports Network, with Roger Ealey, Buddy Pearson and Dylan Vazzano. The game will also be televised by The Big Ten Network.

In addition, TTUsports.com will post live blog-style updates throughout the game and have complete coverage following the contest.