Tennessee Tech suffered its fourth straight loss Saturday, struggling in a 51-20 blowout at Eastern Illinois.
Fortunately for the Golden Eagles, the dog days are over, as the meat of their schedule is finally behind them with some winnable games in the forecast.
But first, here’s my rundown of Saturday’s loss:
I’ll be honest, I never envisioned typing Ty Jobe’s name this season, but with the quarterback issues Saturday, it became a real possibility early in the game that the scout-team signal-caller might get called into action. Entering just before the end of the third quarter, Jobe made the best of his circumstances. Initially, he struggled, throwing a pick-6 on his first passing attempt, but the redshirt freshman fostered some gains for the Golden Eagles, throwing for 74 yards and rushing for 13 with his first career touchdown.
Defensively, cornerback Maleek Hall and senior linebacker Jay Rudwall had another standout showing. Although it’s typically never a sign of success when a defensive back leads a defense in tackles, as Hall’s nine (seven solo) were the most among the Golden Eagles, but his continued ball-hawking ability to disrupt plays is making for one notable junior season. Against the Panthers, Hall recorded a pair of pass breakups and tackles for a loss.
Rudwall’s eight tackles (four solo) ranked second on the team, bringing his season total to 77 (22), which ranks fourth in the OVC behind opposite Tech middle linebacker Tra’Darius Goff, who’s currently first in the conference with 97 (37).
While looking at the numbers, it’s easy to miss the bright spots in between a mostly dark day, statistically speaking, but Tech’s defense held EIU quarterback Jalen Whitlow to just 160 passing yards and the Panthers to 193 total passing yards. That’s an improvement from last year’s 297 to Whitlow and from last week’s 278 to FCS No. 1 ranked Jacksonville State. The defense also forced EIU to a frustrating 3-of-12 on third down.
It’s way too easy to pin Tech’s offensive struggles on five interceptions and two lost fumbles, but why not? The offensive line gave up three sacks, but the story of the day was the turnovers. They were pretty ill-timed, too. The first was on the first play of the game, an interception that set up an EIU touchdown. The second came on Tech’s second offensive play, another interception. The third? You guessed it. Three passing plays, three interceptions inside Tech’s own territory.
A Cause for Concern
It’s both safe and fair to say the Golden Eagles have a quarterback problem because head coach Watson Brown said it himself after Saturday’s loss. After breaking his hand four games prior in a win at Murray State, junior quarterback Jared Davis, the team’s starting gunslinger since the spring, was believed to be ready for his first playing time since a less than stellar or healthy performance in a loss to UT-Martin the week after his seemingly minor injury. Davis struggled from scrimmage against EIU, throwing an interception on the first play of the game and later three more before giving up the gig to Colby Brown. Davis clearly wasn’t ready to come back yet. Brown made some strides in his place, throwing for completions of 17, 56, 15, and 10 yards, but left the game late in the third quarter with an injury of his own before Jobe sprung into play.
Tech has to figure out its QB thing this week before things go from bad to worse.
A Glimmer of Hope
Breathe. It’s over. Sure, it took four consecutive losses to climb out, but, again, the dog days are over. After a trip to Southeast Missouri Saturday – a conceivable win for Tech – the Golden Eagles get a much-needed bye week before the final two games – two more conceivable wins – at home against Austin Peay and Tennessee State. That’s not to say things will be easy, only easier, as the bottom of the pack remains on Tech’s schedule, which could end this fast-paced season on a high note with some much-desired optimism.