By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Sometimes a matchup is just a matter of perspective.
When the Tennessee Tech football team traveled earlier this season to the University of Tennessee, it was the little brother taking on the bigger one, looking to make their names against some of the best of the best.
Flash forward a few weeks and Virginia-Lynchburg preparing to come to Tucker Stadium for Saturday's game. The visiting Dragons have played two Football Championship Subdivision teams this season with trips to Duquesne and Norfolk State, the Golden Eagles making the third.
Everything the Dragons feel coming into the game on Saturday is what the Golden Eagles felt on Sept. 18 in Neyland Stadium. They'll come into Cookeville, hungry for a win and ready to write a story they'll remember for years to come.
For Tech, the challenge is on them to protect the home turf and using the game to build momentum going into the open week before closing out the season with the final three contests of the year.
Kickoff on Saturday is slated for 1:35 p.m. Roger Ealey and Frank Harrell will provide the call on 98.5 KISS FM, while Dylan Vazzano and Sam Brooks will handle the broadcast on ESPN+ (subscription required).
A member of the National Christian College Athletic Association, the Dragons enter Saturday's game with an 0-7 record, defeated by an average score of 52-8. VUL has allowed less than 50 points only twice this season – last week in a 42-14 loss at Norfolk State and a 49-7 loss at Virginia Union. Twice this season have the Dragons scored 14 points – a 50-14 defeat at Mars Hill and last week's aforementioned loss to Norfolk State.
The Dragons have also been road warriors this season with their first eight games all on the road. VUL hosts its lone game of the season next week against Fort Lauderdale before hitting the road again for a return trip on Nov. 13 before closing out the campaign at Howard.
Darrius Sample has completed 71 of his 166 passing attempts for 890 yards with five touchdown passes, while Joshua Gray and Cinsere Clark each have three touchdown receptions. Gray has 20 catches for 318 yards, Clark with 14 catches for 262 yards. On the ground, David Freeman has rushed 68 times for 263 yards with the team's lone rushing score, averaging 37.6 yards per game and 3.9 per carry.
On defense, John Templar leads the team in tackles with 47, including 8.5 for-loss, while also forcing a fumble.
Last week against the Spartans, VUL scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone as Keenan Smith scooped up the loose ball. Sample also hooked up with Clark for a 20-yard scoring connection with 15 seconds remaining in the first half. The Dragons were shut out in the second half.
It is the 10th year since VUL revived its program in 2011. The school had previously played football as a member of the CIAA, starting its program in 1921 before disbanding it in 1954.
For the Golden Eagles (2-5), they're coming off of a tough 20-13 overtime loss at Tennessee State. Despite that game, Tech has won two of their last three games and look to convert this week's matchup into some momentum in the final stretch against Murray State, UT Martin and Austin Peay.
Running back David Gist surpassed the century mark for the third straight game, becoming the first Tech rusher since Darian Stone in 2012 to hit that achievement. He rushed 23 times for 113 yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry. In the last three games, Gist is averaging 129.7 yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry. He currently ranks fourth in the OVC and 39th nationally in all-purpose yardage, second in the OVC and 17th nationally in rushing yardage. Gist trails conference leader Geno Hess (Southeast Missouri) by 198 yards and national leader Malik Grant (Sacred Heart) by 283.
The Tigers held Willie Miller to 126 yards through the air last week on 12-of-30 passing, while Jalal Dean hauled in his first career receiving touchdown with four catches for 36 to lead the Golden Eagles. Quinton Cross remains the team receiving leader with 31 catches for 399 yards and two touchdowns.
Seth Carlisle had nine tackles and an interception to lead Tech defensively against State and has 44 total tackles on the season. Josh Reliford remains the team leader with 54 tackles, five pass breakups and a QB hurry.
Kicker Hayden Olsen has scored 16 points in the last two weeks, going 4-for-4 on field goals and adding four PATs. He hit a pair of 46-yarders against NC Central, then cleared a 42- and 31-yard kick at Nissan Stadium last week.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information