By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
DURHAM, N.C. – In the near-century that Tennessee Tech has been playing football, the Golden Eagles have seen a lot of different teams – 127, to be exact.
On Saturday, they'll add a 128th team to the all-time opponents section as Tech will make the trip to Durham, N.C., to take on the Eagles from North Carolina Central.
The hosts enter the contest with a 2-3 record, still unblemished in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play as they don't enter league play until next week with a visit to Morgan State. Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles earned their first victory of the season last week with a 28-17 victory over Southeast Missouri to enter Saturday's game with a 1-4 record, knotted 1-1 in the Ohio Valley.
Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday. Roger Ealey and Dylan Vazzano will provide the call on 98.5 KISS FM, while Jonathan Duren and Joe Simmons will handle the broadcast on ESPN+ (subscription required).
NCCU opened the season with a nationally-televised victory over Alcorn State on ESPN, claiming a 23-14 win, but then fell 44-10 to Football Bowl Subdivision foe Marshall. After a 20-13 win over Division II Winston-Salem, the Eagles dropped a 37-14 decision at North Carolina A&T and a close 17-16 defeat at Mississippi Valley State.
Down in Itta Bena, the Eagles were held to 93 rushing yards – 2.7 yards per carry – while passing for 198 yards, edged 299-to-291 on total offense by the Delta Devils.
As a team, NCCA is averaging 112.2 yards on the ground and 169.4 yards through the air. Isaiah Totten has rushed for 144 yards – 3.5 yards per carry and 28.8 yards per game. Quarterback Davius Richard has the most touchdowns with three scores to go along with his 115 yards on the season, while passing for 713 yards and three more TDs on a 65-of-118 rate. Ryan McDaniel has nearly half of the receiving production with 27 catches for 389 yards and two TDs.
Defensively, Cole Williams (37 tackles) and Noah Rainbow-Douglas (36 tackles) lead the way, while the team has 23 tackles-for-loss and six sacks, while forcing five takeaways with two interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
For the Golden Eagles, David Gist had a career-high day against the Redhawks as he rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns to put SEMO in the rear-view mirror, while quarterback Willie Miller came on in relief and marched Tech up the field for four consecutive scoring drives. Defensively, Josh Reliford led Tech with 11 total tackles – his third game this season in double-digit totals – while Jalon Baker had a career day with 10 stops, a sack and an interception return setting up a touchdown.
Tech is averaging 76.6 yards per game on the ground and 165.0 yards through the air. Miller, who is expected to start this week for the Golden Eagles, has thrown for 133 yards and two touchdowns, completing 13 of his 31 passes. Quinton Cross has 345 receiving yards and two touchdowns, while Gist broke the century mark with 121 yards on 20 catches. Gist also has 314 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Reliford stands as one of the OVC's top tacklers, collecting 45 on the season to currently stand in second. The Golden Eagles have 32 tackles-for-loss with six sacks, while intercepting two passes and recovering a fumble.
Tech claimed its first win of the season to snap a four-game skid to open the season. After a 52-14 loss at Samford and a 26-0 shutout to Furman, the Golden Eagles went to Southeastern Conference foe Tennessee and fell 56-0 at Neyland Stadium. Tech opened OVC play with a 28-14 loss to Eastern Illinois before upending the Redhawks 28-17.
The Golden Eagles return to OVC play next week as they take on Eddie George's Tennessee State squad at Nissan Stadium before returning home for the final non-conference contest of the season as Virginia-Lynchburg comes to Cookeville on October 23.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information