August 20, 2016

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team held its 18th practice of the fall this evening, completing its final two-a-day with the third scrimmage of the preseason.

The Skyhawk defense showed out early on its way to seven 3-and-outs tonight. As a unit, UT Martin wrapped up 10 tackles for loss (including five sacks) while accumulating 13 pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries.

Offensively, the Skyhawks gained 585 yards on 109 plays (62 passes, 47 rushes) tonight. The UT Martin offense scored seven touchdowns, five of which came through the air.

“It was good to see the defense bounce back tonight,” Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson said. “I thought they competed well. The opportunities that the offense made – they had to make a play. We were real sloppy on offense from a procedural standpoint and we have a long way to go with that. We have a lot of new guys at some skill positions but luckily, we have seven more practices to go to clean this up.”

Kahlid Hagens and Tae Martin guided UT Martin with seven tackles apiece. Martin, Joseph Este, Justin Jackson and Andrew Horton-Martindale tallied two pass breakups each while Jay Murphy compiled 1.5 tackles for loss to lead the Skyhawks defensively.

Anthony Brown and DJ Simmons each had five tackles as well for UT Martin, who held the Skyhawk offense to two or less yards on 27 of its 47 rushing attempts.

Gunnar Holcombe led the squad with 16 completions while accounting for three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing). Troy Cook passed for a team-high 231 yards with a pair of touchdowns while Ian Leggett (passing touchdown) and Kyle Akin (rushing touchdown) also engineered scoring drives from the quarterback position.

A total of 13 players hauled in a pass tonight, led by Greg McKillian’s 152 receiving yards and two touchdowns. McKillian caught four balls but made them all count, as his two touchdowns went for 78 and 59 yards. Ben Axline caught a team-high six passes (including a 29-yard touchdown) while Caylon Weathers and Rod Williams also accounted for touchdown receptions. On the ground, Najee Ray gained a team-high 69 yards while Jaimiee Bowe was responsible for a team-best seven carries.

On special teams, Brett Arkelian booted four punts for an average of 45.0 yards with a long of 56 yards. Mitch Mersman split the uprights on a pair of field goal attempts, as his 37-yard kick was the final play of the scrimmage.

Following a light mist of rain in the practice’s final 10 minutes, UT Martin held its annual ash ceremony off the north endzone. Each member of the Skyhawks wrote individual and team goals on a wooden plank and placed the pieces in a burning barrel to begin a melting process. The ashes from tonight’s fire will be distributed to each player as a reminder throughout the season of their aspirations.

UT Martin returns to practice on Monday, Aug. 22 when it takes the field at 3:30 p.m.

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