August 29, 2016

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UTM Game Notes

Cincinnati Game Notes

The University of Tennessee at Martin football team will open the regular season on Thursday, Sept. 1 when the Skyhawks travel to American Athletic Conference foe Cincinnati. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT from Nippert Stadium.

The Skyhawks are 1-20 all-time against Football Bowl Subdivision squads with their lone win coming over Memphis (20-17) exactly four years ago on Sept. 1, 2012. All-time, UT Martin is 4-10-1 against schools currently in The American, including a mark of 1-2 during head coach Jason Simpson’s tenure. The game serves as the first of three FBS contest for the Skyhawks this season, joining Hawai’i (Sept. 10) and Georgia State (Oct. 22) to join South Carolina State as the only Football Championship Subdivision programs to play three FBS opponents.

UT Martin is looking to build upon last season’s success after coming up just nine points short in its two Ohio Valley Conference losses to national championship runner-up Jacksonville State and Eastern Illinois. Picked to finish fourth in the quest for an OVC championship, the Skyhawks feature 19 seniors along with nine returning full-time starters from a year ago. Looking to replace a decorated 2015 senior class which left UT Martin as the program’s all-time winningest graduating class, the Skyhawks will rely on nine FBS transfers to reload both sides of the ball.

Returning for his 11th season at the helm of the Skyhawks, UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson has an overall record of 65-49. Simpson currently ranks as the OVC’s ninth winningest coach in league history with 65 career victories. Meanwhile, the Skyhawks are 3-7 under Simpson in regular season openers.

While the Skyhawks will feature a new quarterback under center, the squad will rely heavily on the play of redshirt-junior wide receiver Caylon Weathers who tied for the team lead with 62 catches for 726 yards (11.7 yards per catch average) and eight touchdowns. The offense will also feature the three-headed ground attack of sophomore Jaimiee Bowe and seniors Ladevin Fair and Najee Ray to carry a heavy load for the Skyhawks. On the offensive line, the Skyhawks return three of five starting lineman which lead the league in sacks per dropbacks percentage (2.27 percent).

On the defensive side of the ball, UT Martin returns All-OVC performer Damani Taylor at defensive end while redshirt-senior Keith Jones provides a powerful pass rush attack. The trio of starting linebackers Caleb Counce, Kevin Prather, Jr. and James Gilleylen return to the fold after earning preseason honors by College Sports Madness.

Cincinnati enters the season tabbed to finish third in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. The Bearcats have won at least a share of five conference titles in the past eight years while boasting a team which features 13 returning starts from last year’s 7-6 team. Cincinnati led The American in total offense last season, averaging 559.4 yards per games.

The Bearcats will look to turn the keys of their offense over to sophomore quarterback Hayden Moore who appeared in nine games for head coach Tommy Tuberville last season – passing for 1,885 yards with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Moore’s best game of the season came against Memphis where he competed 31 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns. Eric Wilson leads the defense after tallying 106 tackles last season along with 3.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.

Thursday’s contest serves as the first meeting between the two programs in series history.

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