COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Highly touted transfer Da'Rick Rogers aided an already potent Tennessee Tech offense, helping the Golden Eagles to a 41-31 victory over Hampton in their opener on Thursday.
Rogers caught three passes for 75 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown from Tre Lamb with 4.6 seconds left in the first half that gave the Golden Eagles a commanding 31-7 halftime lead.
Rogers joined the defending Ohio Valley Conference champions' program less than a week ago after being dismissed from the Tennessee program for failing multiple drug tests.
"You don't want to let these guys down after they accepted you as part of the team," Rogers said.
After being outgained 384-80 in the first half, Hampton got itself back in the contest with great work in the kicking game. Jorrian Washington returned the second half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, followed by Taurean Durham's 40-yard field goal at the 8:45 mark to make it 31-17.
The Pirates then drew within 31-24 on Jeremiah Schwartz's 1-yard plunge with 3:42 remaining. That score came three plays after Tech's Zack Ziegler couldn't corral Jordan Stovall's towering 45-yard punt, with Keith McAfee recovering Ziegler's fumble at the 5.
"We feel special teams are a big part of the game," Hampton coach Donovan Rose said. "I'm proud of the guys for fighting back and having a chance to win in the fourth quarter."
"I knew we had it in us," Washington said of the comeback.
But Tennessee Tech responded with a 76-yard touchdown drive - its fifth scoring march of 75 yards or more - to take a 38-24 advantage on Lamb's 9-yard pass to Ziegler. Kicker Zach Sharp tacked on a 25-yard field goal with 9:26 left to push the lead to 17.
Hampton didn't manage a first down until early in the second quarter.
The Tigers yielded a seven-play, 70-yard scoring march that took just 2 minutes and 10 seconds to complete and gave Tech a 7-0 lead.
Lamb finished it off with a 34-yard scoring strike to Ziegler, who was yards beyond any defender.
That became a familiar trend - Lamb finding wide-open receivers amid a Hampton defense that was considered its strong suit.
Lamb accounted for 339 passing yards and four touchdowns, completing 24 of 35 passes to seven different receivers.
Meanwhile, Pirates quarterback Najee Tyler lasted just three possessions, going 1-of-6 for five yards before getting pulled for last year's starter, Travis Champion.
Champion hit 18-of-23 passes for just 98 yards, rarely throwing deep.
"I don't know if he was big-eyed or just overthrowing everyone," Rose said of Tyler. "I thought Champion was cool-headed and made some good decisions."
Hampton managed just 192 total yards and 13 first downs, numbers which might have meant more to Golden Eagles coach Watson Brown than the 548 yards and 29 first downs his offense amassed.
"Until the last drive, we played good defense all night long," Brown said. "This was a great win for us. We have a chance to be a great team, but we're not a great team yet."
Notes: Hampton left guard Norman Booker left the game with 9:35 remaining in the first quarter after suffering a fractured fibula. Booker was wheeled off on a stretcher and might require surgery. Teammate John Rose, a backup free safety, was also carted off late in the first quarter after suffering a concussion ... It was the first meeting between these teams and also Tennessee Tech's first game against a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foe ... The first quarter took an hour and one minute to complete.