By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – For all of the highs a week ago after a big win, the Tennessee Tech football team had a humbling experience on Saturday as No. 3 Jacksonville State put together a dominant performance, beating the Golden Eagles 40-21 at Burgess-Snow Field.
Tech (2-4, 2-2 Ohio Valley Conference) was able to score some points and avoid the shutout, but the Gamecocks' defense made the Golden Eagles work for what they did have.
"The positives were that we were doing the things we were supposed to do," said Tech head coach Marcus Satterfield. "We were competing until the clock hit zero. We can't get stuck in this rut. We've talked about this – it's not OK to lose at all. We proved too many times that we can compete with these guys and get them off the field and move the ball. The fact that we couldn't do it early on and get into such a hole was unacceptable.
"But I am proud of our kids. They did a lot of things that were hard. We got down, but our guys were on the sidelines cheering for each other. People were making fun of them in the stands, but they were like, 'Why?' They were just getting drilled, but they were still there for each other. We can't lose games and we don't want moral victories."
Satterfield continued, "This team has got something special about it. It starts with our coaches and trickles down to our players. We have something special. I told them we're going to get on the bus to Tennessee and we're going to compete. We cannot lose another conference game or I'm going to be really, really upset."
Tech ended the game with 229 yards of offense, including 62 rushing yards, marking the seventh time Golden Eagles had been held to under 100 yards of rushing offense against the Gamecocks since they joined the Football Championship Subdivision in 1995.
The Gamecocks also took advantage of five Tech turnovers -- three interceptions and two fumbles.
Trailing 24-0, Michael Birdsong put the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard with a four-yard run with 1:53 remaining before halftime.
"That was huge," Satterfield said. "We knew they were going to come back. We told them all week that they were going to come out swinging. It was going to be a great crowd and everything's going to be going against you. Emotions are going to go wild and we were trying to teach them how to handle that and get through a momentum swing. We did at times, and we didn't handle it at times. We made mistakes, and that's what teams who win don't do. We have to eliminate those.
"It's not just enough to work hard and love each other. We have to eliminate the things that will keep us from winning games."
But JSU (4-1, 1-0 OVC) added nine more points in the rest of the quarter as Josh Clemons ran for a nine-yard score, then Cade Stinnett added a 39-yard field goal as time expired to the send the teams to the locker rooms, JSU up 33-7.
Dontez Byrd caught his third touchdown pass in two weeks as he hauled in a 30-yard pass from Birdsong in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Birdsong ran for his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard gain to end a 14-play drive. Madonia's extra point was good, making it a 40-21 game with 10:24 remaining.
For Jacksonville State, its offense rolled up 446 yards on 73 plays. Quarterback Eli Jenkins was 10-for-16 for 157 yards passing, while he rushed 10 times for 80 yards and a score. Clemons ran for three touchdowns among his 24 carries for 110 yards.
The Golden Eagles return to action on Saturday as they host Eastern Illinois at Tucker Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for a 6 p.m.
"We knew October was going to be huge because we have three games at home," Satterfield said. "We just have to get back to work. If we have the best practice in the country this week, we have a chance to win. I know one thing – our seniors, our coaches, all of our players – they're going to lay it all out on the line. If anyone wants to come out and see how a championship team practices, come out and watch our practice this week. We're going to do what we can to give ourselves a chance to win."