By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech came so close to ending the season on a high note. After taking the lead with 2:43 remaining after quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall pushed forward on 1st-and-goal among the scrum for a score, the Golden Eagles just had to get a stop to top No. 25 North Carolina Central and win its first game against a Top 25 team since 2014.
And it appeared Tech had gotten that stop – facing 4th-and-9 on its own 29, Davius Richard completed a pass to Latrel Collier and it appeared that Collier might have fallen short of the first-down marker and the call on the field granted the first down. After the review, the visiting Eagles were granted the first down.
Instead of getting to line up in victory formation and run out the clock, Tech had to stay on defense.
North Carolina Central took advantage of the decision and marched down the field all the way to the Golden Eagle 19 and Richard even took a shot to the end zone before NCCU was down to one last play.
With two seconds on the clock, Adrian Olivo lined up for what was a 36-yard field goal, clearing the distance as time expired and stunning the Golden Eagles 22-20 on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles end their season with a 4-7 record. North Carolina Central improved to 9-2 and waits for the winner from the Southwest Athletic Conference to play in the HBCU Celebration Bowl in December.
NC Central showed how explosive its offense can be in its first drive as the visiting Eagles went 60 yards on three plays, scoring as Collier broke loose for a 37-yard touchdown run.
Tech's first four drives combined for 40 yards, ending in three punts and a lost fumble. Tech traded an interception and a lost fumble along the way, leaving the turnover ratio even.
The Golden Eagle defense however was able to bend but not break on two first-half drives, keeping NCCU out of the end zone twice as the visitors reached the Tech 8 and 9 in respective drives and holding them to field goals for Olivo.
NCCU led 13-0 before the Golden Eagles were able to get momentum building as Tech got on the scoreboard just before the first half ended as Jayvian Allen scored on a one-yard run with 57 seconds remaining in the half.
Allen set a new career-best in the contest as he ended the day with 83 rushing yards and a score, while also adding 18 return yards for 101 all-purpose yards. The drive used the two-minute offense to perfection, collecting 64 yards on eight plays over 1:38.
Tech scored first in the second half and took the lead as Oatsvall found Hunter Barnhart open up the middle and he got 21 yards on the pickup for a touchdown. Hayden Olsen kicked the PAT, tying Nick Madonia with his 66th consecutive PAT completion as Olsen remains perfect in his career, going 66-for-66.
As the third quarter closed on an Oatsvall interception, the visitors needed one play to capitalize as Richard escaped a tackle and got some distance to get enough room to score to retake the lead. NCCU elected to go for two but the pass was incomplete to make it a 19-14 game.
On the next drive, the Golden Eagles ate up 4:12 on the clock and marched up 65 yards on 11 plays as Tech collected five first downs and converted on 4th-and-9. Earning 1st-and-goal from the NCCU 1 after a 17-yard pickup by Heath Price, both sides loaded up the box at the goal line and Oatsvall pushed forward into the rugby-style scrum and across for the score.
Tech elected to go for two to try to get a three-point advantage. Oatsvall flipped the ball to Willie Miller while the Tech signal caller went scrambling into the end zone. Miller launched the ball toward Oatsvall, who had a good play on the ball, but was unable to finish the play.
Oatsvall ended the game with 189 yards on 16-of-26 passing. In addition to Allen's 83 yards, Justin Pegues ran for 43 yards on four carries. Metrius Fleming led Tech in receiving with six catches for 97 yards.
Richard led NCCU with 143 passing yards and 54 rushing yards, while Collier rushed for a team-high 130 yards on 22 carries.
Photo | Jim Dillon