Early lead, solid effort highlight Tech showing at No. 17 Arkansas

Early lead, solid effort highlight Tech showing at No. 17 Arkansas

Photo: Sophomore quarterback Tre Lamb looks for running room against the Arkansas defense (photo by Tony Marable)

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Tennessee Tech’s upstart Golden Eagles got under the skin of 69,596 Arkansas Razorbacks fans Saturday evening. Hoping to manhandle the FCS visitors, the Fayetteville faithful didn’t have much to cheer about throughout the entire first period.

The opportunistic Golden Eagles ended the first quarter with a 3-0 lead before the No. 17 FBS team broke loose with 23 unanswered points in the second stanza, sending the home team on its way to a 44-3 victory in the cooling twilight of Northwest Arkansas.

“We’re leaving a better team than when we came here,” said fourth-year Tech head coach Watson Brown. “When you come and play a team that good, in a hostile atmosphere you can’t do anything but get better.”

Facing the highest-ranked opponent in school history, the Golden Eagles got a 27-yard field goal from Matthew Barker and an interception from senior captain Dustin Dillehay as they controlled the first 15 minutes.

Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, one of the top Heisman hopefuls, lived up to his billing. He was 21-for-24 passing for 301 yards and three touchdowns.

Tech’s first quarter lead could have been more, as Tech faced a first-and-goal at the one-yard-line after quarterback Tre Lamb avoided pressure and found Henry Sailes behind the defense with a 39-yard completion to the one. The Razorback defense made a goal-line stand to force the field goal.

On the next drive, Mallett had his squad on the move down to the Tech 32. His pass over the middle was tipped by transfer linebacker Will Johnson and Dillehay made a leaping interception, the fourth of his career, at the 12 and returned it 17 yards.

Tech’s defense also forced two fumbles in the first half but Arkansas recovered both

Mallet led the Razorbacks on an 80-yard scoring drive with Dennis Johnson reaching the end zone on a seven-yard run for a 7-3 Arkansas lead early in the second quarter.

After a penalty on the ensuing kickoff put Tech at its own two-yard line, and another penalty backed the Golden Eagles to their one, the Razorbacks swarmed into the end zone and caught Jocques Crawford for a safety to make it 9-3.

Arkansas started at the Tech 49 following the punt and moved to another score with a nine-play, 49-yard drive. Broderick Green capped it with a one-yard TD and the lead was 16-3.

Jason Lennartz dropped a punt deep into Arkansas territory, and the Golden Eagles downed it at the Razorback six, but even that poor field positions didn’t deter Mallett. He hooked up with Joe Adams on a pass in the flat and the speedster took it 85 yards down the left sideline for a 23-3 lead. 

At the break, time of possession was eerily dead-even with exactly 15 minutes for each team. Arkansas, behind 15-for-17 passing and 251 yards through the air by Mallett, had 302 yards of total offense. Tech ground out 131 yards of offense in the first half.

“We played a very solid first half,” Brown said. “The second half saw them wear us down and total field position dominance.”

The Razorbacks scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to build their lead to 44-3, taking advantage of excellent field position throughout the period. All three of the scoring drives were less than 65 yards, including the first which went just 30 yards in three plays.

Sophomore Marty Jones led the Golden Eagle defense with 10 total tackles while Johnson had eight tackles, caused a fumble and broke up a pass. Seven of his eight tackles were solo stops.

Richmond Tooley came up with Tech’s third turnover, an interception in the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles did not lose a turnover.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a lot with some penalties, but the good thing is that we had no serious injuries and no turnovers,” said sophomore quarterback Tre Lamb, who was 6-for-13 for 99 yards passing in his first career start.

“Tre played great and showed great poise and that’s what you want from your quarterback,” Brown said of Lamb’s performance.

“We got better this week, that’s the good thing.” Lamb said. “It’s never fun to lose. I felt like I got better and our offense got better.”

Brown was impressed with Arkansas. “I think that team (Arkansas) is legit and they’ll definitely have a run at it,” Brown said. “That’s the best team I’ve played in the four years I’ve been here.”

That statement will get tested next week when the Golden Eagles travel to No. 6 TCU for a 6 p.m. game against the Horned Frogs (1-0), who opened with a 30-21 win over Oregon State.

Senior captain Dustin Dillehay forced a fumble (above) and had his fourth career interception at Akransas (photo by Tony Marable)

Senior captain Henry Sailes hauls in a 39-pass from Tre Lamb at the Razorback
one-yard line (photo by Tony Marable)