By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Tennessee Tech football team showed fight to the end on Saturday against No. 21 Southeast Missouri, coming within a stone's throw of making it a one-possession game in the final seconds.
But as valiant as the Golden Eagles fought, time ran out for Tech as they fell 34-20 on Saturday at Houck Field.
The Golden Eagles fell to 1-4 on the season, 0-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference as they enter next week's midway point of the campaign as they host Tennessee State.
The story of the game came down to a two-touchdown swing in the final 2:44 of the second quarter. After Tech tied the game on a seven-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Oatsvall to Davin Dyal, who dove over the goal line for the score, the Redhawks (5-1, 2-0 OVC) used a 48-yard return on the kickoff by Darrell Smith to set up a drive from nearly midfield.
SEMO went 52 yards on five plays, ending the series as Paxton DeLaurent threw a 12-yard connection to Ryan Flournoy with 1:03 left before halftime. The resulting kickoff went for a touchback and Tech started from its own 25.
Oatsvall was able to complete passes to Hunter Barnhart and Brad Clark to move the chains, but Trai Hodges picked off the Tech QB at the Redhawk 25 and returned it all the way to the Golden Eagle 26 with 21 seconds left in the half. DeLaurent took advantage of the short field, moving the chains on a 19-yard toss to Garrett Todd, then a seven-yard touchdown pass to Johnny King that stood after a holding call against the Golden Eagles to make it a 27-13 game at halftime.
The early going of the game seemed to be a field goal battle as the Golden Eagles held SEMO to a 28-yard kick for D.C. Pippin after the Redhawks chewed up 68 yards on eight plays. Tech countered with a 43-yard kick from Hayden Olsen to cap off a nine-play drive of its own.
Geno Hess, the Redhawks' lead rusher, gave SEMO its first touchdown on a two-yard carry with Pippin's extra point making it a 10-3 game as the quarter came to a close. Tech went for a field goal again on its second drive of the contest as a nine-play, 40-yard series wrapped up at the SEMO 31. The 48-yard try fell short, preserving the score.
Olsen got another try just a couple minutes later after the defense forced the Redhawks to turn the ball over on downs – this time the kick was true from 33-yards out to make it a 10-6 game. SEMO was held to a field goal once more as Pippen hit a 35-yarder at 7:38 remaining in the second quarter.
SEMO was only able to score once more in the contest as Flournoy caught a second touchdown from DeLaurent on a four-yard route late in the third quarter. Tech's defense held strong in the fourth, forcing the Redhawks to punt on three consecutive drives and four of their last six.
Tech marched down the field to open the fourth quarter. Oatsvall had two quick completions to Metrius Fleming, then David Gist had a fourth-down pickup to move the chains. After two more Gist gains to get to the Redhawk 30, Oatsvall found Clark for the touchdown. Olsen's PAT made it a 34-20 contest – as the score would stand as time expired.
The Golden Eagles had an opportunity late, engineering a 16-play drive over 3:52 seconds and looked poised to strike for another touchdown and cut it down to a single-possession contest. William McCall ended that threat, intercepting Oatsvall at the Redhawk 5-yard-line, allowing SEMO to go into victory formation.
Statistically, the game was very even – Tech outgained SEMO 400-377 on total yardage, threw for four more yards with 270 to the Redhawks' 266, then outrushed SEMO 130 to 111.
Gist eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark in his career, rushing for 63 yards on 13 carries to lead Tech on the ground. Hess didn't fare much better, rushing for 88 yards – well below his average – on 13 totes. Gist has 2,024 yards in his career following the contest Saturday.
Oatsvall finished the contest with 270 yards on 27-of-48 passing, while DeLaurent was 22-of-33 for 266 yards. Clark led Tech's receivers with 70 yards on four catches, while Flournoy had 101 yards on five hauls.
Defensively, Samari Burns led the Golden Eagles with nine tackles, while SEMO's Bryce Norman had 12 tackles.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information