By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- For David Gist, there must be something about playing against Southeast Missouri.
In his freshman campaign against the Redhawks in 2018, Gist ran for a then-career-high 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Saturday, against the 2021 edition of the SEMO squad, he outdid that, rushing for 133 total yards – a new career best – with two scores, while also adding 11 yards on three catches for 144 all-purpose yards in the contest as he led the Tech offense to a 28-17 victory over the Redhawks at Tucker Stadium.
The victory gives Tech (1-4, 1-1 Ohio Valley Conference) its first win of the season.
At the half, SEMO (1-4, 1-1 OVC) led 10-0 with Tech accumulating just 27 total yards. Talk about adjustments – the Golden Eagles ended the contest with 298 yards of total offense – 271 in the second half alone. As Drew Martin left the game late in the second quarter, Willie Miller returned under center and helmed four scoring drives. Miller completed five of his nine passes in the contest for 74 yards, but two were touchdown passes of 25 and 28 yards.
Neither team put anything on the scoreboard in the first quarter, but the Redhawks struck first early in the second stanza as Geno Hess, the conference's top rusher entering the game, scored on a one-yard push.
SEMO attempted to tack on trio of points on a Kenny Doak field goal try from 56 yards out with just over three minutes remaining before the half. The kick had the distance but sailed to the left. Doak was still able to put three on the board, converting a fumble at the Tech 30 into a field goal as the SEMO offense was held at the Tech 4.
Last week against Eastern Illinois, a crucial turnover seemed to shift momentum away from the Golden Eagles. On Saturday against the Redhawks, Tech finally got one to go its way. C.J. Ogbonna attempted a pass, but Tavian Johnson was able to tip the throw. Jalon Baker intercepted the ball at the SEMO 40 and returned it all the way to the 25. On the next play, Miller found Quinton Cross in the end zone for Tech's first points.
Miller was a field general on the next two series as he moved the Golden Eagles up the field. While a roughing the passer penalty assisted on the effort, Tech still rolled up 89 yards on eight plays, ending the series as Miller hit a strike to Ashton Maples for a 28-yard touchdown to put the Golden Eagles up 14-10 following Hayden Olsen's PAT.
After a Zach Haynes punt rolled down to the Tech 4, it proved to be only a momentary obstacle as the fourth quarter opened. In 14 plays, Tech collected six first downs and 96 yards as Gist had the first of his two touchdowns with 8:45 remaining in the contest on a three-yard run.
Tech scored on its fourth straight possession as Miller broke off a 35-yard run to the SEMO 22, then a 19-yard gain for Gist to the SEMO 3. Gist was given the opportunity again, and while the Redhawks held him on the first two tries, the third was the charm as he ran in for a two-yard score with 3:44 remaining, Tech up 28-10.
The Redhawks tried to climb back within reach, scoring on a Jalyn Williams pass to Johnny King for a seven-yard touchdown and Doak's PAT making it a 28-17 game with 45 seconds remaining. Adam Krause kicked the onside kick and Izeal Terrell recovered the ball, giving SEMO one last try.
However, the Golden Eagles were able to force the Redhawks to turn the ball over on downs at the Tech 44, allowing Miller to take the knee in victory formation to close out the contest.
Tech's defense came up strong, holding SEMO to 126 rushing yards, including just 69 for Hess on 16 carries. They found ways to get into the Redhawks' backfield, collecting four sacks – including full sacks for Jalon Baker, Devin Squires and Daniel Rickert – as well as 11 tackles-for-loss for 42 yards (2.5 for both Josh Reliford and Squires) and six quarterback hurries (two for Squires). Reliford led the day with 11 tackles, followed by Baker with 10.
Offensively for SEMO, Ogbonna ended the game with 26 yards on 5-for-14 passing with an interception, while Williams had 119 passing yards on a 12-for-26 effort.
King had 54 yards on five catches and Terrell Jester hauled in six catches for 48 yards.
The Golden Eagles will take a brief reprieve from OVC play as they travel to take on non-conference foe North Carolina Central next Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.
Photo | Christian Murphy