Injuries lead to depleted Tennessee Tech roster


Jehad Abbed

Red-shirt Junior runningback Shepard Little fights off the defense during practice Tuesday at O’Brien Field.

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

The Tennessee Tech football team was a shadow of itself heading into its game at Jacksonville State, following its comeback victory against Eastern Kentucky.

A linebacker group that was devastated by injuries against the Colonels, left Jacksonville, Ala., even more depleted.

Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown lost three linebackers in the first quarter against the Gamecocks, as they went on to win 49-3, handing the Golden Eagles their third conference loss.

Overall, the Golden Eagles are reeling heading into their
1:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday at home against Eastern.

“We’ll have 13 guys not play in this game Saturday on our team that basically started the year with us, but we still got plenty enough to still win games down the stretch here,” Brown said.

The biggest loss on defense came to the linebacker group, which has been without senior Tra’Darius Goff for the past five games and is out for the rest of the season.

Goff led Tennessee Tech with 101 tackles last season, while adding three sacks, forcing three fumbles and recovering two fumbles. Things did not get any better for his replacement either.

“We lost our All-OVC linebacker Tra’Darius Goff and that’s great for next year because he gets a red-shirt and Trey Thompson has had a broken hand and a separated shoulder, who took his place,” Brown said. “Jay Rudwall’s had a very sore jaw. Both Thompson and Rudwall got hurt in the Eastern Kentucky game in the fourth quarter. We won that game, but it took a toll on us.”

Because of the injuries, Brown still does not know who is and who is not ready to play against the Panthers on Saturday.

“I don’t know as of (Tuesday) afternoon what they will be able to do and then what can some do in practice and what can they do on game day,” he said. “It’s been interesting for us. We’ve played seven linebackers.”

Injuries to Brown’s linebackers are only the beginning, though. Tennessee Tech has been decimated left and right on its offense.

“We’ve played six different offensive tackles, we have no tight ends left, we’ve played five different flankers, we’ve played six different running backs, two different quarterbacks and four different centers,” Brown said.

Despite the injuries, the Golden Eagles have won both of their conference home games this season, beating Murray State 30-27 in overtime on Oct. 4, and defeating the Colonels 39-31 on Oct. 18, overcoming a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

“But we’re hanging in there and we’ve found a way to win games,” Brown said. “We have three straight home games and we’ll see if we got enough left in the tank to knock off some of these people.”

While Brown is trying to get his team back on track, Eastern coach Kim Dameron is looking forward to the final four games, which if the Panthers win out have the chance to share the Ohio Valley Conference title.

The Panthers are 3-1 in the OVC, third in the standings, but Dameron said Eastern has to focus in game by game.

“We’re excited about the challenge,” Dameron said. “We know that basically we’re in a sudden death situation right here because we can’t afford to lose a conference game and think that we can possibly make it to the playoffs.”

Aldo Soto can  be reached at 581-2812  or [email protected].