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Tech football holds off Lindenwood for Homecoming victory

Tech football holds off Lindenwood for Homecoming victory

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was fitting that Tennessee Tech's battle with Lindenwood came down to one final play. After all, the two teams had been swapping scores back and forth the entire day. With 14 seconds to go, the visiting Lions lined up for a two-point conversion trailing 35-34.

It was a gutsy, but smart play for the visitors. If it was successful, Tech would have to find a way to score in the final seconds.

Lindenwood quarterback Cade Brister fired to the end zone, but Josh Reliford broke up the two-point pass.

It wasn't over yet though as the Lions still had to kick the ball away after the touchdown. Lindenwood sent both of their kickers out on the onside kick attempt to try to distract the Golden Eagles. Logan Seibert ended up with the attempt but Bradley Clark came down with the ball to dash Lindenwood's hopes as Tech got to go into the two sweetest words in football – victory formation.

As Jeremiah Oatsvall knelt down, Tech completed the win, finishing off Homecoming with a 35-34 victory and winning its 50th Homecoming game and seventh of the last eight to go 50-40-1 all-time in the annual event.

While Lindenwood's offense was expected to be explosive, the Golden Eagles (3-6, 2-3 OVC) showed just how explosive they could be, racking up 553 total yards, including 250 in the air and 303 on the ground. It's the first time the Golden Eagles have rushed for over 300 yards since the Cumberland game in 2013.

A big part of that came from David Gist, who ended up with his eighth 100-yard game in his career, the sixth-most in program history. His 100 yards puts him at 2,302 career yards, passing Dontey Gay (2,219) for sixth-place and 13 yards away from tying Jason Ballard (2,315) in fifth.

The bulk of his yardage came on 71-yard touchdown run, tied for the 19th longest run in program history. Gist also had three catches for 13 yards and another touchdown.

Oatsvall was 18-for-27 for 194 yards and a touchdown passing, but also ran 11 times for 81 yards and two touchdowns for 275 yards of total offense.

It wasn't just the offense clicking on all cylinders though. Brister's throwing prowess was well-known with over 10,000 career yards and leading the OVC's top passing offense. The Lions were yielding almost three sacks a game coming into Saturday's contest. That was until the Golden Eagles pegged Brister for a Tech single-game record 10 sacks.

Eight sacks against Eastern Illinois in 2010, Southeast Missouri in 1999 and Eastern Kentucky in 1998 were the previous record. Jacorrian Wrenn had 2.5, while Reliford, Samari Burns, Hudson Tucker, A.J. Crawford, Kail Dava, Ethan McLaurin, Aidan Raines and Theron Gaines each brought the Lions signal-caller down.

Brister, however, still ended with 303 yards on 24-of-33 passing with five touchdown completions, including two each to Payton Rose – who had three catches for 102 yards – and Chase Lanckreit  -- who had the first two touchdown catches of his season.

It was also a relatively clean game for both teams as there were only one penalty for five yards against each team and one turnover each.

The first quarter was almost a clean sheet for both sides, but Oatsvall found Gist on an 11-yard pass to the end zone to take the early lead. Lindenwood responded on a short 1:47 series as Rose caught a 37-yard completion, racing to the goal line.

Tech countered with Gist's 71-yard breakaway, but Lindenwood scored 14 straight points as Brister found Kobe Smith for a 29-yard score and a 40-yard connection to Rose, Seibert's PAT giving the Lions a 21-14 lead at the intermission – both drives lasting less than two minutes.

With the Lions electing to receive on the opening kickoff, Tech got the ball to start the second half. The Golden Eagles took the opening drive of the third quarter up 78 yards, ending the series as Oatsvall broke free for a 47-yard keeper. Devin Parker's third of five PATs was good, knotting the game once more at 21-all.

After forcing Lindenwood to punt on its next series, Tech needed just three plays to shift the momentum once more as O.J. Ross ran for an 11-yard pickup. One the next play, Oatsvall threw across to Willie Miller, who completed a 56-pass to Ross, who was stopped by Lloyd Lockett just short of the goal line. Tech kept the ball in Ross' hands and he pushed forward for the three-yard touchdown, ending the 70-yard, 1:06 drive and going up 28-21.

Lindenwood started to chew up time, taking up 6:13 on its next drive and going 75 yards on 11 plays. The Lions scored on a 23-yard hookup from Brister to Lanckreit with the PAT tying the game just before the end of the third quarter.

Tech added one more touchdown with 6:36 remaining in the contest, getting into the Lions' den on five plays, including a 28-yard pass to Quavel Thornton to get down to the Lindenwood 26. The Golden Eagles inched closer with a 12-yard completion to Clark, a Jayvian Allen rush and a Clark rush to move the chains on 1st-and-goal at the LU 2. Oatsvall was held on the first try, but facing just inches away, the Tech signal-caller pressed forward into the scrum and across the goal line.

With time waning, Lindenwood was content to take up as much time as possible. Despite two sacks in the drive as Aidan Raines and Samari Burns pushed the Lions backwards 13 yards, Brister kept the chains moving, rushing for 38 yards and completing passes for 36 yards to get to the Golden Eagle 10. His fifth completion of the 18-play drive was a score as Lanckriet caught the ball and was upended by Burns, but the Lion tight end was able to cross the line with just 14 ticks left on the clock.

The Lindenwood offense stayed on the field. It was a solid decision – the Lions had just marched down the field and had 409 yards of offense on the day. Brister stepped back, looking for Lanckreit once more, but the ball didn't get to him. Reliford knocked the ball down, keeping Tech on top 35-34.

The Golden Eagles hit the road next week for its final away contest of the season at North Alabama. Tech return home in two weeks for its season finale against North Carolina Central.

Photo | Emily Armstrong

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