Eastern’s mistakes sinks it in 40-29 loss

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief


All that was missing was a bow and wrapping paper and Eastern’s delivery of Saturday nights conference opener to Tennessee Tech would have been complete.  

Tennessee Tech capitalized of a handful of Eastern errors and handed the Panthers their fifth loss of the season 40-29 at O’Brien Field.  

Eastern turned the ball over three times, twice via a fumble and once on an interception, and Tennessee Tech made them pay for it. At one point during the second quarter the Golden Eagles scored 14 points off turnovers in 21 seconds.  

The result left Eastern feeling like it handed the game to Tennessee Tech. 

“We beat ourselves, no question about it” head coach Adam Cushing said. “Turnovers, you’re not going to win many games. We put the ball on the ground a lot, we gave it to them a lot and then our defense did a heck of a job trying to put us in some good positions, but we beat ourselves.” 

Cushing said you had to give Tennessee Tech credit for how they capitalized on Eastern’s mistakes.  

Eastern quarterback Harry Woodbery set the school record for pass attempts with 68 on Saturday, the previous number was 62. Woodbery finished the game 34-of-68 passing with 334 yards passing and two touchdowns. But, he did have two turnovers, one interception and one fumble, and he too felt that Eastern gave the game to Tennessee Tech. 

“Absolutely. Absolutely (it felt like we gave them the game),” Woodbery said. “No disrespect they played a great game, great offense, their defense plays with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, but as competitors I definitely feel like, turning the ball over twice, that’s two scores to them. I can’t let that happen, I can’t do that to my defense, especially in those situations and if we take those down and score those it’s a totally different game.” 

Eastern had its hands full on defense with Tennessee Tech quarterback Bailey Fisher who threw for a school record six touchdown passes in the win.  

“He’s a ball player, he really is,” Cushing said of Fisher. “There are some guys that you just describe it that way and it’s the best compliment I can give him because you’d take him if you’re playing volleyball you’re picking him, if you’re playing kickball you’re taking him. He just knows how to play the game, he has a knack for it and he’s got some toughness to him.” 

Eastern was an alarming 4-of-22 on third down in the game but made up for it slightly by going 7-of-9 on fourth down.  

Eastern jumped out to its first lead of the season in the first quarter after Woodbery connected with Xander Richards on a 20-yard fade pass to the corner of the endzone, but the lead was short-lived.  

Tennessee Tech scored 21 unanswered points, 14 off of Eastern turnovers, to close the second half with a 21-7 lead.  

Eastern gave Tennessee Tech short fields on both of its turnovers; the first came off a interception thrown by Woodbery that gave the Golden Eagles field position inside the 20-yard line. Eastern turned it over again in its own territory on the following drive, this time running back Jaelin Benefield had the ball popped out of his grip and Tennessee Tech recovered on the 20-yard line.  

The Golden Eagles turned both turnovers into quick scores, with the two touchdowns coming within 21 second of each other.  

Jaelin Benefield scored ran in two touchdowns for Eastern in the second half, the first of his career, but it still wasn’t enough for Eastern to catch a Tennessee Tech team that capitalized on every Eastern error. 

Fisher threw three more touchdown passes in the second half, bringing his total in the game to six, and Eastern never really made the game close.  

Woodbery threw a touchdown pass to Dewayne Cooks with 59 seconds to play to bring the score to 40-29, but at that point in the game it was more for style than it was substance as Tennessee Tech got the ball and ran the clock out.  

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].