By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
MURRAY, Ky. – Racer One ran around the track at Roy Stewart Stadium fairly quickly as Murray State turned a Tennessee Tech turnover into a touchdown drive.
However, that was the only time Murray's equine mascot made the trip around the field as the Golden Eagles scored 17 unanswered points to take a 17-7 victory and snap a three-game losing streak.
"It was a response," said Tech head coach Dwayne Alexander. "We have had a rough last few weeks and a couple of tough home losses. It shows you just how far this program has come. These guys are showing that they can respond. It started off with us down 7-0 and from there these guys just played their tail off."
Tech improves to 5-4 overall, 2-3 in the Ohio Valley Conference, winning for just the fourth time in 11 meetings in Murray and improving to 47-37-1 in the all-time series, the longest in Tech's program history.
"The last three games were rough," Alexander said. "The guys hurt. The coaches hurt. We hurt for our players. We knew we had better football players than the way we played the last two weeks and this shows that. This puts us at 5-4 with three games left, two at home. There's so much left to do."
The 2019 Golden Eagles also join 48 other teams in program history with five or more wins in a season, while also tying the 2016 squad for the most wins since the 2011 OVC championship season. The good news is there's still three games left to go in the season with the opportunity to add to its total.
"It was a team win – the offense complemented the defense," Alexander said. "We hadn't been able to sustain drives. We had a great job from (offensive coordinator) Tre Lamb and his staff. We put (defensive coordinator Donnie) Suber in the box and he did a great job today. Murray scored on a short field with an early interception. Outside of that, they didn't score on us. We got turnovers when we needed it and it was complementary football.
It certainly was a team effort. David Gist got the Golden Eagle offense going as he ended the day with a touchdown and 146 all-purpose yards. The sophomore from Cookeville recorded 101 rushing yards on 22 carries, breaking the Golden Eagles' 13-game 100-yard-rusher drought. Gist was also the team's last 100-yard rusher, breaking the mark against Southeast Missouri on Oct. 6, 2018, recording 108 yards in that game.
Gist also caught five passes for 45 yards and Tech's first touchdown of the day on a 20-yard pass from Bailey Fisher to open the second quarter.
Tech was held to three points in the opening period as Haidar Zaidan capped a 14-play, 69-yard drive with a 23-yard field goal.
Andrew Goldsmith also found pay dirt as a receiver, catching a 31-yard touchdown strike from Fisher with 27 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
In all, Tech's rushing attack outgained the pass 209 to 206, the third game this season the Golden Eagles have run for more than 200 yards in a contest and are 3-0 when they pass that milestone. It is also the fourth game this season Tech accumulated more than 400 yards this season and improve to 3-1 when that happens.
Fisher ended the game with 206 yards on 20-of-28 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. The offensive line kept the Racers off him as Fisher was not sacked in the contest.
One of the biggest factors in the game was possession time as the Golden Eagles ran 84 total plays to Murray State's 57. In all, Tech held on to the ball for a season-high 39:08, 26 seconds longer than the double-overtime win over Samford.
Defensively, the Golden Eagles held the Racers to just 71 yards on the ground, the third time Tech has held a team to under 100 yards rushing this season, joining Eastern Illinois and Virginia-Wise.
The Golden Eagles also got big play after big play on defense as Quintavious Boyd and Seth Carlisle picked off passes, both in the red zone. Boyd intercepted a pass at the Tech 17, while Carlisle made a TD-saving catch at the Tech 5. Freshman Kail Dava also had 1.5 sacks while Aderick Moore made nine tackles.
Jared McCray led the Racers with six carries for 45 yards. Preston Rice ended the contest with 196 passing yards on 23-of-34 passing, while Ty Terrell caught six passes for 36 yards and LaMartez Brooks five for 68 yards and a touchdown.
The Golden Eagles return to action Saturday as they host Jacksonville State for the 89th annual Homecoming game. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
"We started strong and we're going to finish strong," Alexander said. "We got four wins in August and September. We lost October. We are going to win November and we're looking forward to Homecoming next week."
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information