By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's been 45 years to the day since Tennessee Tech last faced Furman – September 11, 1976, as the Paladins came into Tucker Stadium.
While Furman escaped with the victory that day, the Golden Eagles are looking to open their home slate with a victory as Tech hosts the Paladins on Saturday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Roger Ealey and Frank Harrell will broadcast the game locally on 98.5 KISS FM, while Dylan Vazzano and Sam Brooks will provide the commentary on ESPN+ (subscription required).
Saturday's game will also be a busy one with many special events honoring our public safety, first responders, military and health care workers, while also remembering those we lost on the September 11, 2001, attacks.
With the special day, public safety, first responders, military and health care workers, as well as their immediate families, will receive free admission to Saturday's game if they are in uniform or have valid service IDs.
The following COVID protocols will be in effect for the 2021 Tennessee Tech Football Season:
-- Tennessee Tech welcomes fans for the 2021 Tennessee Tech football season.
-- No fans are allowed in the team areas including the sidelines, field, or locker room areas.
-- Fans are encouraged to wear masks, especially in confined areas such as concession stand lines and restrooms.
-- Distancing while inside Tucker Stadium, including in the seating areas is highly encouraged.
-- Feeling sick? For your safety and others, we ask that you please do NOT attend the game
-- Tennessee Tech requests you follow CDC guidelines related to handwashing and other proper protocols to limit the spread of COVID.
Tech enters the contest 0-1 following a tough 52-14 defeat last Thursday at Samford, while the Paladins are 1-0 after a victory over North Carolina A&T. Like Samford a week ago, Furman used a pass-heavy offense as quarterback Hamp Sisson completed 25-of-40 passes for 362 yards and three touchdown to top North Carolina A&T 29-18.
The 362 passing yards was the second-most in program history, earning Sisson Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors, while the 87-yard touchdown strike to All-America tight end Ryan Miller was their fourth-longest completion in Paladin history.
Head coaches Dewayne Alexander and Clay Hendrix are a similar pair as both skippers are leading their alma maters – Alexander a 1989 Tech grad, Hendrix a 1986 Furman grad.
For fans unfamiliar with Furman's resume, the Paladins are the all-time winningest program in the Southern Conference, posting a 620-488-38 record, claiming 14 SoCon titles and won the Football Championship Subdivision national championship in 1988, while finishing as runners-up in 1985 and 2001.
The Golden Eagles will look to rebound from Game 1's loss at Samford. Liam Welch threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns as Montrell Washington caught eight passes for 170 yards and had a 62-yard punt return touchdown.
Davis Shanley had a solid outing at quarterback as the Western Kentucky graduate transfer threw for 159 yards and a touchdown strike to Justin Oden, while David Gist returned from an injury with 72 rushing yards and a touchdown run.
Josh Reliford currently leads the Ohio Valley Conference in tackles as the defensive back recorded 11 stops.
Last time vs. Furman
Cecil Fore scored on a 48-yard run, then Murray Cunningham tacked on the extra point to tie the contest against Furman, but the Paladins broke the tie in the third quarter and added some insurance in the fourth quarter as Furman came away with a 17-7 victory at Tucker Stadium, knotting the all-time series at 1-1.
Harry King caught a two-yard touchdown pass from David Whitehurst with 4:06 remaining in the third stanza to put the Paladins up. It was King's second touchdown of the day after rushing in for a three-yard score in the opening quarter.
Andy Goss added a 17-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to complete the game's scoring.
The Golden Eagles had 308 yards of total offense -- 144 on the ground (led by Fore's 60 yards on five totes) and 164 through the air (123 going to Craig Rolle on six completions from Gary Perdue).
King ended the day with 118 rushing yards on 22 carries, carrying the bulk of Furman's 215 rushing yards. Whitehurst was an efficient 12-for-18 for 180 yards, including 63 yards each to Tommy Southard and Angus Poole.
Paul Green for Tech and Mark Gordon for Furman each intercepted passes, while Gordon and Heintz recovered fumbles.
With Saturday's game falling on the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, there are several events on campus to commemorate the day and those lost.
The day starts at 8:30 a.m. with the Tennessee Tech ROTC's Golden Eagle Battalion hosting a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb as participants will climb up and down 2,071 steps -- or as many as they are able -- in Tucker Stadium to emulate the climb the New York firefighters had to make in the World Trade Center that day. Participants can optionally wear a backpack or rucksack of 35-40 pounds to simulate the gear they wore. Interested parties can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
At 11:30 a.m., a 9-11 Remembrance Ceremony will be held at the 98.5 KISS FM Tailgate Park outside the stadium, emceed by public address announcer and local DJ Phillip Gibbons. Speakers include University president Dr. Phil Oldham, Cookeville vice mayor Laurin Wheaton, Putnam County mayor Randy Porter, Lt. Colonel James Bryant and an invocation from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. This event is the same that has previously been held on the lawn at the Putnam County Courthouse in the Cookeville square.
In addition to the presentation of colors by the Tennessee Tech ROTC, a large American flag will be stretched across the Tucker Stadium turf during a moment of silence in remembrance of the September 11 victims.
Voter registration tailgate
Held in conjunction with Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and the Putnam County Election Commission, Tech will hold a Tennessee Voter Registration Tailgate before the game at Tucker Stadium. With Tennessee breaking voter turnout and participation records in 2020, the Secretary of State's office will help Tech students and fans sign up for future elections through its secure online portal, GoVoteTN.gov.
Running of the Freshmen
One of the University's most recent traditions, the Running of the Freshmen invites the newest students to take part and run through the Golden Eagle Marching Band in front of the Tennessee Tech team as they enter the field before kickoff, while led by University president Dr. Phil Oldham and University First Lady Kari Oldham.
Spirit of Campus Student Tailgate
Greek Life and student groups are invited to take part in the annual Spirit of Campus competition. Groups will earn five points per game attended in the competition, with a spirit night planned for later this season. Participation includes purple and gold décor at tent, apparel and spirit material displayed, such as posters, pom poms and more. To RSVP or for more information, contact Abraham Fernandez at email@example.com or (931) 372-3861.
The Golden Eagle Marching Band will present a special halftime performance for Saturday's game. They get the band back together for its first show since 2019 with 150 members, including 65 newcomers. The show will begin with a tribute to the military, performing the service song for each branch of the military with recognition of those who served in attendance.
The show will then shift to a remembrance of the victims and survivors of the September 11 attacks with a performance of Taps followed by Amazing Grace. The show will conclude with a performance of America The Beautiful.
During the third quarter, members of the Tennessee Tech chapter of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will pass around buckets among the spectators to raise funds for the victims of the August 21 flooding in Waverly, Tenn., that claimed more than 20 lives and destroyed more than 270 homes.
Advance tickets for Saturday's game are available by calling (931) 372-3940, visiting the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or by visiting TTUsports.com. Day-of-game tickets will be available at the Tucker Stadium ticket windows.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information