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Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles

Golden Eagles hold off North Alabama

Golden Eagles hold off North Alabama

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

FLORENCE, Ala. – Tennessee Tech scored five touchdowns in its eight drives. North Alabama scored five times, too – but it was three touchdowns and two field goals as the Golden Eagle defense came up with four big stops in their own territory to secure a 35-27 victory over the Lions on Saturday.

The biggest stop may have been with 6:49 left in the contest. With the Golden Eagles leading 35-24, North Alabama (1-9) marched up the field on 18 plays and got to the Tech 10-yard-line before the Lions were held to 4th-and-goal. Sam Contorno hit the 27-yard field goal for what was eventually the final margin of the contest.

Tech needed to run out as much time as it could to keep the Lions from getting another chance and did just that, eating up 5:40 on the clock as the Golden Eagles moved the chains three times – one on an unnecessary roughness call as Jeremiah Oatsvall was body-slammed to the ground by Micah Fann. Tech got all the way to the UNA 34 facing 4th-and-6, then Oatsvall quick-kicked the ball away, pinning the Lions at their own 11 with 69 seconds remaining in the contest.

North Alabama, who had put up strong offensive numbers all day, did its best to get the ball to the other side. After moving the chains three times in four plays, they got into Tech territory, giving Noah Walters room to fire to the Golden Eagle end zone. But Walters' next two passes fell incomplete, giving Tech the ball on downs with six seconds left, allowing Tech to run out the clock on a victory formation kneel.

That gave the Golden Eagles their third straight win, earning its first three-game streak since 2019. It was the fifth one-possession loss for the Lions this season.

It was a balanced offensive assault for Tech (4-6) as the Golden Eagles rolled up 268 yards on the ground and passed for 186 yards, spreading the wealth across much of the lineup. Oatsvall led the total offensive chart, throwing for 183 yards on 14-of-21 passing with a touchdown, then rushing eight times for 67 yards and another score to end the day with 250 total yards.

David Gist also had a touchdown run as he finished the day with 63 rushing yards. That pushed the Cookeville native into fifth all-time in Tech's career rushing charts with 2,365 yards to pass Jason Ballard (2,315).

Justin Pegues and O.J. Ross also had touchdown runs in the contest, while Jayvian Allen caught a touchdown on his lone catch for 18 yards.

While he wasn't able to get into the end zone, Metrius Fleming had a solid game with 97 all-purpose yards, rushing once for 36 yards and catching four passes for 61 yards. Allen led Tech in rushing with nine carries for 70 yards, while also catching a touchdown pass for 18 yards and returning kicks for 37 yards to end the day with 125 all-purpose yards.

ShunDerrick Powell continued to show why he's one of the top rushers in the Football Championship Subdivision as he picked up his nation-leading 18th rushing touchdown and picked up 151 yards on 30 carries and set UNA's single-season rushing record with 1,473 yards entering the Lions' season finale next week at Memphis.

Walters threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-36 passing, completing touchdown passes to Takairee Kenebrew and Demarcus Lacey.

Offensively, UNA edged Tech statistically, collecting 505 yards to the Golden Eagles' 454 with the Lions rushing for 172 and passing for 333. Five UNA receivers had a catch of 31 yards or more.

Josh Reliford led the Golden Eagles with 10 total tackles, while also breaking up a pass and hurrying the quarterback once. Xavier Washington had nine stops and Tech's lone sack of the day after recording 10 a week ago against Lindenwood, while Nyquan Washington had eight tackles and a pass breakup.

Neither team was able to create a turnover.

Of Tech's eight full drives, there were five touchdowns and three punts. One of those came on the first drive and UNA marched down to the Golden Eagle 29, but missed a field goal opportunity. Tech then scored touchdowns on three straight drives.

Oatsvall scored the first as he called his own number on a keeper, picking up the final 14 yards of a seven-play, 77-yard drive. Hayden Olsen kicked the first of his five PATs on the day – continuing his perfect 64-for-64 streak in his career and now stands two PATs made away from tying Nick Madonia for the longest consecutive PAT streak in program history.

North Alabama took up a lot of time on its next drive, closing out the first quarter and taking away the front chunk of the second as the Lions chewed up 6:39 on 17 plays to go 51 yards with the series ending as Contomo kicked a 41-yard field goal.

Tech responded in five plays, going 75 yards with Allen's 18-yard pass – wide open on the right side and streaking to the end zone – extending the Golden Eagle lead to 14-3.

UNA made it a one-possession game once more as Powell ran for an eight-yard score, capping a 10-play, 76-yard drive. With 1:34 remaining in the first half, Ross scored from four yards out, then the Lions used just under a minute to respond once more with a 31-yard touchdown strike from Walters to Demarcus Lacey.

Tech's first drive of the second half was able to take up some clock, going 70 yards on nine plays and taking up nearly seven minutes as Pegues was able to find an opening on the left side and squeeze through into the end zone. UNA answered with an 86-yard drive as Kenebrew had the final 39 yards on the series and last touchdown for the Lions on a pass from Walters.

The third quarter ended as Gist closed out Tech's next ledger with an eight-yard scamper. North Alabama's final scoring drive took up 8:09 as the Tech defense held the Lions at the Tech 10 and a 27-yard field goal.

The Golden Eagles return to action next week as they host North Carolina Central for Senior Day at Tucker Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Tickets for Saturday's game are on sale – call (931) 372-3940, visit the Hooper Eblen Center ticket office or visit TTUsports.com.

Photo | Emily Armstrong, file

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