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Monday, June 27, 2022

Commentary

View from the opposition: FCS’ Tennessee Tech up for the Cougars’ challenge


Tech junior quarterback hands the ball off to senior running back Ladarius Vanlier during the team's Purple vs. Gold spring scrimmage in April.

Tech junior quarterback hands the ball off to senior running back Ladarius Vanlier during the team’s Purple vs. Gold spring scrimmage in April./ Courtesy of Tennessee Tech University’s The Oracle

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cougar asked the Tennessee Tech Oracle’s assistant sports editor Jordan Pace to write about the matchup against Houston. Here’s what he had to say.

Houston, we have a problem. Or do they? Tennessee Tech head football coach Watson Brown and his team knows the Cougars don’t this week.

The Golden Eagles (5-7, 4-4 Ohio Valley Conference in 2014) head to the University of Houston this weekend for their almost-annual Football Bowl Subdivision matchup – a somewhat mutual and understood “lose and get paid” agreement between higher-profile FBS programs and Football Championship Series (FCS) schools seeking dollars to build and improve its own athletic program.

The Cougars are up next on Tech’s prospective list of check signers, as the two teams will meet for the first time in Saturday’s season opener in a road trip for the visiting Cookeville, Tennessee team.

But make no mistake, the Golden Eagles have the same confidence and ambitions of any other college team heading into the first game of the year. They want to win, and they believe they can give the hosting team – the undoubted favorites – a run for its money.

“We’re possibility thinkers,” Brown said. “We don’t worry about who we’re playing, we just have to play a good game and be good enough.”

Commonly portrayed by many as a David vs. Goliath-like mismatch, Brown says the metaphor has its purposes.

“It always is when these levels play each other,” Brown said. “David did whip Goliath every once in a while. We understand what’s ahead, and we know what we’re going up against.”

Tech is somewhat used to the FBS level of play at this point, as it’s been up against some of the NCAA’s best since Brown began scheduling his underdog rosters to play out of its league since his arrival in 2007.

“It’s no different, we’ve done this so many times,” Brown said of playing at UH.

“Lord, we’ve been to Auburn, Oregon, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Georgia – we treat ‘em all the same.”

Brown’s players echo his pregame approach, even amid the unfavorable projections made by those outside of the team’s culture.

“The objective in any football game is you don’t care who’s across from you,” said junior quarterback Jared Davis. “You’re out there to beat your man in front of you, execute and win the game. We feel like we can be competitive.”

For senior inside linebacker Jay Rudwall, Houston’s sizable, speedy offense may appear on paper like an improbable endeavor for Tech’s defense, but he says he is not willing to just go down without a fight, regardless of who is on his team’s plate.

“Whether it’s against Houston at the top level or anyone in our conference in our level, we’re hungry, and we want to compete,” Rudwall said.

“It doesn’t matter who it is, it’s about not backing down from a challenge, and that’s what I think defines us as a team this year. It’s not necessarily the fact that they’re Houston, but it’s our first opportunity as a team to prove what we can do this season.”

With the addition of first-year head coach Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator of last year’s Ohio State Buckeyes National Champion team, and new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando, who called defensive plays for Utah State’s successful runs the last two seasons, it’s safe to say Brown and staff have had plenty of homework this past week.

“That’s made it hard for us,” Brown said of game planning for the new-look UH coaching staff. “We’ve had to watch Houston tape and then turn around and watch Ohio State tape for the technical stuff and Utah State tape for their defensive coordinator. They’re picked (to finish) second in their league, won their bowl game last year – it’s a very solid team. I think they’re a right-out-of-the-top-25 (FBS preseason ranking) bunch walking in the door. We know they’re good.”

This one could get ugly right out of the gate if Tech can’t find a way to muster up enough confidence and composure in front of the Cougars’ 40,000 home fans.

But then again, the Golden Eagles are used to the baggage of traveling to big-time atmospheres. Like their previous paid losses, they have nothing to lose in this one and everything to gain.

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