Early start puts UTM in national spotlight
Posted: Friday, September 28, 2012 12:00 pm
With a morning kick-off, UT Martin will find out Saturday if it is ready for prime time.
The Skyhawks and Eastern Kentucky will clash this Saturday at Hardy M. Graham Stadium, the nationally televised game on Fox College Sports set for 11 a.m.
Jason Simpson, the seventh-year head football coach at UT Martin, feels the game could continue a trend of coming down to big plays and turnovers.
Against Austin Peay last week, the Skyhawks had three passing plays for more than 20 yards, and reserve running back Trent Garland had a 32-yard run in the final two minutes of the game.
UTM forced four turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble which junior Fred Flenorl returned 11 yards for the touchdown. The Skyhawks defeated Austin Peay 31-6.
Eastern Kentucky recorded a 51-21 victory over No. 24 Jacksonville State. The host Colonels racked up 558 yards of total offense in the victory. It was the most offense for the Colonels since Sept. 13, 2003, at Central Michigan.
Both teams enter the year undefeated against fellow FCS competition, with EKU’s lone loss coming at Purdue and UTM’s lone loss coming at Northern Illinois.
The two teams are meeting for the 23rd time with EKU holding a 21-1 advantage in the all-time series. That lone victory by the Skyhawks came two years ago, as Derek Carr hooked up with Daniel Chamberlain on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 5:06 to go and EKU missed a 53-yard field goal on its next possession to give UTM the 10-7 victory and snapping a 20-game losing streak in the series.
Last season EKU came out on top 23-16 as Matt Denham scored on a touchdown run with 1:08 to play. Denham finished the game with 188 yards and that touchdown while Tevin Barksdale rushed for 77 yards for the Skyhawks.
Overall, each of the last five matchups in the series has been decided by seven points or less (with three of those being by three points or less).
“Can we run the ball when everyone in the place knows we have to run it,” Simpson said. “We have to be big-play oriented in this game.”
Eastern Kentucky moved up to 19th in both the FCS Coaches Poll and the Sports Network Top 25 this week.
The team is coming off a 51-21 blitzing of No. 24 Jacksonville State on Saturday, marking the second straight season the Colonels have scored 50 or more points against the Gamecocks. Eastern is now 6-7 against nationally-ranked FCS opponents under head coach Dean Hood. In the game EKU jumped out to a 34-8 halftime lead (the biggest deficit JSU had ever faced at halftime of an OVC contest) after scoring on five of its first seven possessions.
Senior running back Matt Denham led the way with 218 rushing yards (9.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns, scoring two on the ground (including a 73-yard scamper, a career-long run) and catching a touchdown pass.
He has now rushed for 100 or more yards in 11 of his last 12 games and currently ranks eighth nationally in rushing (138.0 yards/game) and scoring (10.5 points/game).
Quarterback T.J. Pryor completed 13-of-20 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Pryor now ranks first nationally in passing efficiency (180.87) and needs just 119 passing yards and 30 completions to break the EKU career records in both categories.
Senior Cejay Ceniza was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week after accounting for three takeaways in the game. He notched a first quarter interception, a second quarter fumble recovery and picked off a fourth quarter pass and returned it 84 yards for a score.
UT Martin is off the second 3-1 overall start to a season under head coach Jason Simpson and only the third time the team has achieved that since joining the OVC in 1992.
UTM limited Austin Peay to just 274 yards of total offense on the night. It marked the second-straight game the Skyhawks had limited an FCS opponent to just six total points;.
Overall, UTM ranks 15th nationally in scoring defense (16.0 points/game). It was the first time since 2006 — the year the Skyhawks won the OVC Championship — that they had held back-to-back opponents to single-digit points.
Junior linebacker Ben Johnson had 11 tackles in the contest and has now had three-straight games with double-digit tackles. He ranks second in the OVC and 17th nationally in tackles (11.25/game).
The Skyhawk defense had three total interceptions against the Govs and now has five picks on the year compared to six total interceptions all of last season.
Quarterback Derek Carr completed 21 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Senior Quentin Sims pulled down seven receptions for 86 yards and a score while junior newcomer Jeremy Butler had five catches for 90 yards and a score. Published in The WCP 9.27.12