By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In recent years, Homecoming has been a good day for the Tennessee Tech football team with the Golden Eagles winning three of the last four annual contests.
The 2018 Tech squad is hoping for similar fortune on Saturday as Murray State comes to town for the Golden Eagles' 88th Homecoming game. Kickoff from Tucker Stadium is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.
Roger Ealey and Grant Swallows will provide the radio broadcast on 98.5 KISS FM and the Golden Eagle Sports Network, while Dylan Vazzano, Sam Brooks and Wayne Anderson will handle broadcast duties for ESPN+ (subscription required) and WCTE locally.
Tech (0-8, 0-5 Ohio Valley Conference) has lost 11 straight games with the last win coming on Oct. 28 of last year. The Golden Eagles are also one of two teams on the Football Championship Subdivision level without a win, the other being Virginia Military Institute in the Southern Conference.
In its history, Tech has only had two winless seasons – 1984 and 1986 – and the Golden Eagles are eager to avoid a third. Fortunately, there's still three games remaining as Tech looks to end the 2018 campaign on a high note.
Murray State (4-4, 4-1 OVC) brings an interesting situation. The Racers stormed out of the gate with a 4-0 conference record, knocking off UT Martin, Eastern Illinois, Tennessee State and Eastern Kentucky in quick succession, but took its first conference loss of the season last week as they ran into a buzzsaw against No. 10 Jacksonville State in a 42-15 defeat.
Also playing into Tech's favor is MSU's record in Cookeville with the Golden Eagles claiming a 23-11 record on their home turf and a 45-37-1 overall lead in the series – the longest-running in Tech's 97 seasons of play.
It will not be easy though. The Racers come into Tucker Stadium with a pass-first, throw-second offense that's averaging more than 400.2 yards per game – 145.2 on the ground, 255 through the air.
Drew Anderson currently stands as the third-best passer in the league by yardage per game, averaging 233.1 yards. Tech's already faced the top two – Jacksonville State's Zerrick Cooper threw for 190 against the Golden Eagles, while SEMO's Daniel Santacaterina threw for 395. Anderson has thrown for 1,865 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Anderson also has a stable of receivers to throw to. He has completed passes to 18 different receivers, led by Malik Honeycutt, who has 18 catches for 341 yards and one touchdown. Four receivers – DeQuan Dallas, James Sappington, Jensen Feggins and LaMartez Brooks – have hauled in two touchdowns.
On the ground, Rodney Castille leads Murray with 58 carries for 438 yards and two touchdowns, while D.J. Penick and Anderson have rushed for four scores.
Kicker Gabriel Vicente is the Racers' leading scorer, hitting 11 of his 12 field goals – the longest 47 – and 25 of his 27 point-after tries.
Defensively, Quincy Williams is a tremendous threat, leading the team with 82 tackles, including eight for-loss for 36 yards, two interceptions for a total of 167 yards (an 82-yard return for a TD against UT Martin and an 85-yard return against Eastern Kentucky), three pass break-ups and a forced fumble.
On the Golden Eagles' side, true freshman quarterback Bailey Fisher has thrown for 1,385 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 173.1 yards per game. Andrew Goldsmith leads Tech on the ground with 309 yards on 87 carries and a score, while David Gist has two rushing touchdowns.
Nick Madonia leads Tech in scoring with 50 points, hitting 11 of his 17 field goals – the longest this season being 54 yards at Utah State – and hitting all 17 of his PATs. Madonia has made a program-record 62 consecutive PATs, his last miss coming in 2016 at UT Martin.
Fisher is on the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award watch list for Freshman of the Year, Madonia on the Fred Mitchell Award watch list for top non-Football Bowl Subdivision kicker, and Poplar is a nominee for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year.
Homecoming festivities start Friday night with the TTU Sports Hall of Fame inductions and the newest members will be recognized Saturday at halftime. Saturday's events start with the Homecoming parade at 10:30 a.m. as the route comes onto campus through Dixie Avenue.
Tickets for the game are available – call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com to order.
Photo by Thomas Corhern