By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Alex Carling had probably the catch of a lifetime.
With Eastern Kentucky up 30-27 in overtime, the Tennessee Tech football team took advantage of a personal foul call against the Colonels to get a first down, then Michael Birdsong threw a four-yard strike to the tight end Carling in the left corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown, 33-30 in favor of the Golden Eagles.
"It feels fantastic," Carling said. "But it was the offensive line, it was Michael Birdsong that made that throw. I was just wide open in the end zone and made the catch."
The dog pile ensued as the Golden Eagles improved to 2-3, 2-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference.
"It's a great win," said Tech head coach Marcus Satterfield, "but we also know that it's just one game. The mental toughness and confidence we've been trying to build on our team finally showed tonight. We played far from perfect and we played a really good Eastern Kentucky team. We're going to be playing that team for championships a lot in the future.
"For our guys to give up big plays and just keep fighting and hanging in there, and get us into overtime was a great effort."
Offensively, the Golden Eagles put up huge nights as Tech controlled the ball for 42:28, collecting 446 yards on 94 yards. More importantly, Tech did not give up the ball, especially to an EKU team that was characteristically taking advantage of points off turnovers.
Birdsong had his best night as a Golden Eagle, throwing for 327 yards on a 27-for-42 night with three touchdowns. Birdsong also rushed for a touchdown of his own.
"Michael won the game with his arms and with his legs," Satterfield said. "Dontez (Byrd) and Alex made great plays, and Alex's catch – that isn't an easy catch right there."
"It's easy when you have guys making plays like that," Birdsong said. "I know if I scramble and get open, someone's going to make a play."
Two of those touchdowns went to Louisville transfer Byrd, who hauled in 116 yards on seven catches. Josh Cunningham also caught seven passes, collecting 69 yards.
Nick Madonia also had two big field goals for the Golden Eagles, kicking from 42 and 26 yards. Since missing two field goals against Wofford in the season opener, Madonia is 7-for-7 on field goals.
Defensively, the Golden Eagles put themselves in position with two huge fourth-down stops. Tech held EKU to 0-for-3 on fourth down, but there were two stops in the fourth quarter. With 12:14 remaining in regulation, Elliott Normand and Chris McElderry stuffed Ethan Thomas for no gain at the Tech 29.
On the next Colonel drive, facing 4th and 17, quarterback Bennie Coney connected with Ryan Markush with a 13-yard pass on the Tech 14, but it was four yards short.
Coney had another fantastic outing against Tech, throwing for 464 yards and three touchdowns on a 32-for-49 night.
Devin Borders caught nine passes for 121 yards and Markush hauled in seven passes for 104 yards. Both receivers caught touchdowns, along with Dan Crimmins, who had six catches for 65 yards.
Jared Sanders had the other touchdown for the Colonels (1-3, 0-1 OVC), rushing for a 59-yard score in the first quarter.
It doesn't get any easier for Tech, however, as the Golden Eagles travel to Jacksonville State on Saturday. Kickoff against the Gamecocks is scheduled for 2 p.m.
"I'm just really proud of our team," Satterfield said. "We have many steps to go and this is just the first step."