The Golden Eagles keep finding ways to win close games this season at Tucker Stadium. The latest example, a 27-26 come from behind win over Southeast Missouri, came last Saturday during the team’s 84th annual Homecoming game. It was the third time this season the team has found itself with its back against the wall.
“It’s like a broken record, isn’t it?” said head coach Watson Brown. “When we’re in close games, we just hang around. That’s what we do.”
Tech trailed the Redhawks early Saturday 13-0 after a 1-yard sneak for a touchdown from SEMO quarterback Kyle Snyder and a pair of field goals from kicker Ryan McCrum. The Golden Eagles then responded with a 2-yard Radir Annoor touchdown near t
he end of the second quarter.
The score capped off a five play, 61-yard drive led by quarterback Jared Davis. Davis, who had watched the previous three games from the sidelines, stepped in for the Golden Eagles after Brown opted to pull starting quarterback Darian Stone.
"Darian wasn’t sharp in the first quarter,” said Brown. “J.D. got his shot and went in there and did his job.”
Davis finished Saturday’s contest passing for 216 yards and a touchdown and 51 yards rushing and a touchdown. Looking like Jared “Football,” the rushing score came on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 12-yard zone read run, which included a stiff-arm and two broken tackles from the quarterback from Manchester, Tenn. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Davis is not typically known for scrambling. The ground performance came without surprise, though, from Brown.
“The people that think he’s just a drop-back passer — Jared can run,” said Brown. “Now he don’t run a 4.3, 40 [yard dash], but he’s very athletic and strong in his legs, and he’s hard to get on the ground. He likes to run the ball. That’s what I like about him.”
Davis had a Homecoming of his own after missing the past three games. He began the 2014 season as the team’s starting quarterback, but gave up his role to senior quarterback Darian Stone after posting poor performances in the first three games of the season. Davis added after Saturday’s win that he enjoyed playing with his teammates for the first time since the Oct. 4 overtime win over Murray State.
“Getting to go back out there definitely gave me some confidence,” said Davis. “Having my teammates there, having their support — I mean, heads and tails, that’s a major factor in your confidence level as a quarterback whenever you have your lineman coming and picking you up.”
Also closing Saturday afternoon’s Homecoming win with a standout performance was strong safety Austin Tallant. The senior finished with 12 tackles and an interception on the Redhawks’ first drive of the game. He also played a role in his defense’s late-game turnaround. The key play came on a third-and-goal stop after a blitz from Tallant, which forced SEMO to kick a 19-yard chip shot field goal.
“Man, it was awesome, wasn’t it? There’s really no other greater feeling in the world,” said Tallant. “But first, I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. I want y’all to put that in the newspaper if you can. If you’re going to get fired, then I’ll understand. He’s the one who makes this all possible. Man, the guys that I play defense with — to be on this Golden Eagle football team, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else in the entire world.”
The performance earned Tallant honors from the conference as he was named the OVC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Week. Brown praised Tallant’s performance after the game.
“Austin was on that championship team [in 2011], and now he’s had to be on a team that’s not ready to win one, and he’s been a fantastic leader for us all year long,” said Brown. “He hasn’t dropped his head and he understands what his role has to be and try to get the next team or the next team after that back to that championship level. When you’ve tasted it and you’ve gotten to do it, and then you have to turn around and not get to do it in your senior year, it’s hard. I don’t care what you say, that’s hard. And I’m just very proud of Austin for that.”
The Golden Eagles secured the Homecoming win on the final play of the day on a blocked kick from defensive end Jordan Patrick. The game-winning, 62-yard field goal attempt came from SEMO kicker Ryan McCrum, who Brown described as “the best in the country.”
“He [McCrum] kicked extra points over our machine [north end zone scissor lift]. I mean, I’ve never seen that before,” said Brown.
Saturday’s win over SEMO was the fourth week in a row that Tech’s defense has given up 300 yards of rushing or more. They allowed 348 to the Redhawks last week.
The Golden Eagles return to the field this Saturday as they take on No. 9 Chattanooga (7-3) for the final game at home this season. The Mocs are the sixth nationally ranked opponent Tech has faced this season. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.