By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As tough as the interstate rivalry has been between Tennessee Tech and Tennessee State in recent years, it's only fitting that Saturday's contest at Nissan Stadium went down to the last play.
After all, the two teams swapped scores throughout the contest, and as the Golden Eagles tried to hold on in regulation, the host Tigers scored with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game and send it to overtime.
The Tigers scored a touchdown – Geremy Hickbottom completing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dayron Johnson – to put the pressure on Tech. The Golden Eagles had their chance, but it came down to one last play on 4th and goal at the Tiger 9.
Under pressure, quarterback Willie Miller fired into traffic with a target there, but Cory Rahman intercepted the pass to end the contest. Tennessee State emerged victorious 20-13 in overtime.
For the first half, it was field goals for both teams. After a quick, scoreless first quarter, Hayden Olsen put the Golden Eagles on the board, ending an 11-play, 73-yard drive with a 42-yard field goal. The Tigers answered as Antonio Zita punched a kick through from 24 yards out to tie the game.
The Golden Eagles scored once more before the half as Olsen hit a 31-yard field goal as time expired to take a 6-3 lead into the locker room at the half.
The third quarter was silent with neither team breaking through, but TSU took the lead at 14:04 left in the fourth as Hickbottom found Rodell Rahmaan and the receiver broke away for a 56-yard touchdown. Miller and running back David Gist marched the Golden Eagles down the field, then Jalal Dean caught his third pass of the drive for his first career touchdown, a 10-yarder to the right side to put Tech back on top, 13-10, with 8:21 remaining.
Both teams punted the ball away on their next possessions, then, with 3:27 remaining, all the Golden Eagles had to do was get a stop.
The Tech defense already had two stops within the Golden Eagle 10. A touchdown and the Tigers would potentially win the game with time ticking away, a field goal and the game was going to OT. Hickbottom got TSU moving quickly with a 37-yard strike to Rahmaan to get to midfield. Hickbottom kept inching closer, getting them down to the Tech 6.
The Tigers got no closer. Zita made the field goal, a 24-yarder, with five seconds left in the fourth.
In the overtime period, The Tigers went first and only needed two plays to score as Hickbottom completed a 12-yard pass to Devon Starling, then a 13-yarder to Johnson for the touchdown. Zita's PAT made it 20-13 as the Golden Eagles started their turn.
After a Miller rush for nine and Gist pick-up of six to move the chains, the duo picked up six yards on the next two plays. An attempt to Quinton Cross fell incompete, then a false start penalty pushed Tech back to the TSU 9 for the fourth-down try. Miller, under pressure, fired with a target in the middle of the end zone, but Rahman came away with the ball to end the game.
The Golden Eagles rushed for 213 yards in the contest, including 113 yards for Gist – the first Tech player to rush for 100-plus yards in three consecutive games since Darian Stone did closing out the 2012 campaign. Miller also rushed for 66 yards on 18 carries.
Miller had 126 yards passing with a touchdown as he completed 12 passes for 30 yards. Dean caught four for 30 yards and a score to lead Tech's receivers.
Seth Carlisle led the Golden Eagles in tackles with nine, while also intercepting a pass for 11 yards. Josh Reliford had six, while Samari Burns, Christian Cantrell and Jack Warwick had four. Kail Dava and Devin Squires also had fumble recoveries for Tech.
TSU rushed for 120 yards, led with 65 yards on 15 carries for Devon Starling. Hickbottom completed 20 of his 34 passes for 256 yards and two touchdown passes, while Rahmaan had four catches for 106 yards and a touchdown. Cory Rahman led the Tigers with 11 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup.
The Golden Eagles (2-5, 1-2 Ohio Valley Conference) returns to action next week as Tech hosts Virginia-Lynchburg. Kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information