The Golden Eagle football team (4-2, 3-1 OVC) looks to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss as they travel to Jacksonville, Ala. to face off against the conference leading Jacksonville State Gamecocks (5-2, 4-0 OVC).
Tech and Jacksonville State are both nationally ranked teams. The Golden Eagles are ranked 19th in the FCS Coaches Poll and 25th in the Sports Network/Fathead.com Poll. The Gamecocks are ranked 13th and 14th, respectively.
“You want to be heading down the stretch still in the race,” Tech head coach Watson Brown said. “The winner of this game controls its own destiny. [The OVC] is a good league. It’s a competitive league. I thought everyone would have at least one loss by now, but they haven’t and they deserve credit for it.”
This is the 16th meeting between the two programs with Jacksonville State holding a 9-6 lead.
Last season, the Gamecocks came to Tucker Stadium ranked No. 4 in the country and looking to clinch the OVC. Tech had other plans however and overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull off a 35-24 upset.
Jacksonville State is coming off a 38-14 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats last weekend. Although it was a losing effort, the Gamecocks had a good showing against the FBS opponent.
They were led by junior running back Washaun Ealey, whose 120-yard performance gave him his fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game.
Freshman Gabriel Chambers also made some noise with a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the first Kentucky had allowed all season.
Tech is coming off a bye week after scoring 20 unanswered points yet still coming up just short, losing 42-40, to Tennessee State on Oct. 15. The loss was not only their first conference loss of this season, it was also their first loss in FCS play.
Despite losing, the team broke several school single-game offensive records in the game including 36 first downs. Junior quarterback Tre Lamb set single-game school records for completions (34), pass attempts (58) and total plays (69).
“We just didn’t have enough to get it done tonight and that’s disappointing,” Lamb said.
The loss could be attributed to turnovers and penalties. Tech turned the ball over four times (two interceptions and two lost fumbles) and committed 11 penalties totaling 80 yards.
“We’re not good enough to win with turnovers and penalties like that,” Brown said. “We just can’t do it.”
One bright spot from the game was freshman kicker Zach Sharpe. Sharpe was 4-5 on field goal tries and 4-4 on extra points. His total of 16 points is the second most in school history. Sharpe was named OVC Special Teams Player of the Week.
“He keeps getting better,” said Brown of his kicker. “He made the kicks to keep us in the game.”
The team’s hopes are still high for the remainder of the season.
“We’re not done,” said junior Zack Ziegler, who totaled 102 yards and two touchdowns in the TSU game. “If we keep winning, nothing changes.”