By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The last seven meetings between Jacksonville State and Tennessee Tech have not been kind to the Golden Eagles.
Tech's last win against the Gamecocks came on the road in 2011 – the year the Golden Eagles defeated JSU and Eastern Kentucky to earn the Ohio Valley Conference's automatic bid to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Since then, Tech has been outscored 284-106, outgained 3,744-1,796 and allowed an average of 534.8 yards per game.
That was then and this is now.
During that span, the Golden Eagles have only had two seasons with five wins – 2016 and the present 2019 campaign. JSU, coming into the contest with a 3-3 record in the OVC, has only three conference losses in a single season four times – 2006, 2007, 2012 and this season.
The two teams lock horns on Saturday for Tech's 89th annual Homecoming game. Kickoff at Tucker Stadium is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. Roger Ealey and Buddy Pearson will provide the call on 98.5 KISS FM, while Dylan Vazzano and Sam Brooks will handle broadcast duties on ESPN+ (subscription required).
Tech comes into the game on a winning note as it snapped a three-game losing streak with a 17-7 victory at Murray State. The Gamecocks have lost two of the last three, falling to UT Martin 22-17 last week. JSU beat Murray State 14-12 the week before, then fell 24-21 to Southeast Missouri.
The Golden Eagles have a 47-40-1 record all-time on Homecoming and have pulled together four wins in the last five, including a 27-24 victory over Murray State to give Tech head coach Dewayne Alexander his first win. The Golden Eagles have played JSU twice on Homecoming -- a 41-17 loss in 2008 and a 34-14 loss in 2013.
Tech, however, has only beaten the Gamecocks twice in Tucker Stadium in OVC play. The first was a 16-13 victory in 2004. The second one, however, was a Golden Eagle classic. JSU needed a win to claim the OVC automatic bid. Leading 24-7 with 13:40 remaining in the contest, Tech scored 28 unanswered points in that span to leave the championship T-shirts in their boxes – the Golden Eagles victorious 35-24. It was the first of back-to-back victories for Watson Brown and his Tech teams.
Trying to find that elusive win this time around won't be easy. Zerrick Cooper has passed for 2,781 yards – the fourth JSU quarterback to pass 2,500 in a single season and the second time by Cooper – and 22 touchdowns. Wide receiver Josh Pearson has caught 11 touchdown passes this season, extending his JSU school-record to 28 TD catches.
And the Gamecocks may pass a lot, but they aren't toothless on the rush, compiling 1,262 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns, including six rushing scores for Cooper.
JSU is averaging 415.1 yards of offense per game, while the defense is yielding 376.9. One of the Gamecocks' strengths over the years has been up front and that certainly has not changed in 2019.
On defense, Zack Woodard leads the way with 74 tackles, including 4.5 for-loss, with half a sack, an interception, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery. As a team, the Gamecocks have 13 sacks, seven interceptions, six fumbles recovered and nine forced.
For the Golden Eagles, Aderick Moore has 73 tackles, including three for-loss, one sack, an interception, a pass breakup and two forced fumbles. As a team, Tech has 21 sacks, seven interceptions, eight fumbles recovered and six forced – with one fewer game played than the Gamecocks as they take their open date next week before the regular-season finale.
Offensively for Tech, sophomore quarterback Bailey Fisher continues his assault on the career chart and the single-season record book. He has thrown for 2,111 yards this season with 18 passing scores, while also rushing for eight touchdowns and 288 yards. The 26 combined touchdowns is already a Tech single-season record, while he finds himself 466 passing yards away from tying Michael Birdsong's 2,577 yards as the Tech single-season record holder.
Fisher is currently sixth in career passing (3,792) and fifth in career total offense (4,426) as a sophomore.
Freshman wide receiver/return specialist Metrius Fleming is also putting up big numbers and is on the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award watchlist for the top FCS freshman. Fleming has 38 catches for 542 yards and two touchdowns, 14 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns, a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown, an average of 27.7 yards per kickoff return and an average of 116.3 all-purpose yards per game.
On the ground, David Gist leads the way with 401 yards and a touchdown, averaging 44.6 yards per game.
As a team, Tech is averaging 397.8 yards of offense, while allowing 416.1 yards on defense on average. The Golden Eagles are also finding ways to hold on to the ball, averaging 32:29 time of possession per game.
Tech has turned the ball over once in the last three games – an interception off Fisher on the first drive against Murray State – but has 11 interceptions and six lost fumbles on the year to counter 15 takeaways. JSU has 13 takeaways and 19 turnovers – 11 interceptions and eight lost fumbles.
The game is also Tech's celebration of 150 years of College Football with several special events planned. More information on those can be found here.
Tickets are on sale now. Call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com to order.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information