By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
OXFORD, Ohio – As the Tennessee Tech football team puts Week 1 in the rear view and focuses on their next opponent, the schedule doesn't get easier.
Tech makes its annual foray into the Football Bowl Subdivision this weekend with a visit to Miami (Ohio) out of the Mid-American Conference. Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Central.
Roger Ealey and Dylan Vazzano will provide broadcast coverage on 98.5 KISS FM, while the game will be streamed on ESPN+ (subscription required) with Robert Lee and Dustin Fox handling play-by-play and color duties.
Tech's visits to the FBS haven't turned out in their favor too often as the Golden Eagles hold a 2-34 record against their bigger brothers in Division I's top tier. Tech's two wins came to Western Carolina in 1978 and 1980 as the Southern Conference did not move down to the Football Championship Subdivision until 1982, four years after the FBS/FCS split.
But these games are much more than the sizable paycheck for the visitors. It's an opportunity for the Golden Eagles to test themselves against some of the best players in the country, to play in some of the most historic stadiums in the country and build memories of their own.
Not that these games are unwinnable for the FCS teams – Central Arkansas proved that in Week 1 as it beat Western Kentucky, and Appalachian State's 34-32 win over Michigan in 2007 has maintained the gold standard of the FCS victory.
And with the Golden Eagles coming off of a thrilling 59-58 double-overtime team against a Samford team that is much better than its current 0-2 start, Tech would like to see its season improve to 2-0 with a win this weekend.
Needless to say, it won't be easy.
Miami has a storied tradition. It has been referred to as the "Cradle of Coaches" as five of what is considered the top 50 coaches of all time came through the school, either as a student or a coach – Paul Brown, Walter Alston, Bo Schembechler, Ara Parseghian and Woody Hayes.
Currently under the direction of Chuck Martin, the RedHawks have tried to maintain its tradition, which has led Miami to consistently be one of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference, leading the league in wins (690), league championships (15) and bowl wins (seven). Martin started his head coaching career with a stellar run at Grand Valley State, going an astronomical 74-7 in his tenure there.
Offensively, with the RedHawks, it starts upfront with the linemen. Traditionally a strength for Miami, 2019 is no exception as they return three starters from last season with Danny Godlevske, Jarrett LaRubbio and Tommy Doyle, while Matt Skibinski has plenty of experience himself.
At quarterback, the last name might sound familiar as true freshman Brett Gabbert became the first true freshman to ever start a game for the RedHawks last week as they traveled to No. 20 Iowa in a 38-14 loss. Gabbert, the younger brother of NFL quarterback Blaine Gabbert, threw for two touchdowns as he completed 17-of-27 passes for 186 yards, while intercepted once.
Miami had the game within 10 points in the fourth quarter before the Hawkeyes closed the door in the final six minutes of the contest.
On defense, Sterling Weatherford and Ryan McWood each recorded 10 tackles to pace the RedHawks.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles saw plenty of heroics in last week's win over Samford. True freshman Metrius Fleming ran for a 66-yard touchdown and returned a kickoff 41 yards to set up one of the crucial late touchdowns to send the game into overtime. He was named the Ohio Valley Conference's Newcomer of the Week.
Jack Warwick made a crucial tackle on Chris Oladokun on the one-yard line, keeping Samford from adding a late touchdown. Darrius Stafford came up with the onside kick, setting up Tech's 16-point effort in 99 seconds, all underneath the two-minute warning. David Gist caught the game-winning two-point conversion pass.
Then, there's quarterback Bailey Fisher. The sophomore earned the STATS FCS National Offensive Player of the Week and OVC Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for 415 yards – the third-most in school history – and had 463 yards of total offense – also the third-best tally – as he had five combined touchdowns (three rushing and two passing, connecting to Tavin Kilpatrick and Justin Oden.
While the Golden Eagles head to Oxford, Ohio, for this week's contest, they will return home next week for a visit from Virginia-Wise in Tech's Family Weekend game. Tickets, including season tickets, are on sale. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com to order.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information