FOOTBALL SKYHAWKS DOMINATE IN HOME OPENER OVER BACONE COLLEGE 84-6
September 17, 2016
YouTube: Grand Opening Ceremony
YouTube: Postgame Press Conference
YouTube: Game Highlights
MARTIN, Tenn. – The culmination of months of planning, construction, practice and preparations came to fruition on Saturday afternoon as the University of Tennessee at Martin football team debuted its elaborate renovations of Hardy M. Graham Stadium while treating its fans to a dominating 84-6 victory over NAIA foe Bacone College.
The Skyhawks (1-2) picked up their first win of the season while scoring the third-most points in program history behind the team’s 84 points – ranking only behind 97 points against Bethel (1995) and 87 against Concordia (2008). Controlling the contest from the opening kickoff, the Skyhawks tallied 12 touchdowns despite accumulating only 347 yards of total offense. UT Martin took advantage of prime field position throughout the game, starting nine of its 10 scoring drives in Bacone territory on top of two defensive touchdowns.
“I was proud of the way we came back from Hawai’i and prepared to play well this weekend,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “The first part of the season is over and now we shift our focus to conference play. Our guys have been so much. Today was a sigh of relief to finally win our first contest and get the past six weeks of frustration behind us. We had the win going away today and now we’ve got nine weeks of OVC football, just grinding it out. Luckily we’re at home next week so we’ve got a great opportunity to get off to a 1-0 start in the league.”
Along with today’s game, UT Martin officially opened renovated Hardy M. Graham Stadium and its four-story press box addition. After construction began in November of 2015, today served as the first event hosted in the stadium upon the completion of construction. The new press box structure ranks as one of the finest in the Football Championship Subdivision ranks – featuring a new concession stand, visitors’ locker room, academic classrooms, club level and media level.
“It was a cool day today because you got Coach (Bob) Carroll there and Phil Dane along with the current staff who helped push this thing through and helped finish everything up the right way,” said Simpson. “To see everybody get to see it (the press box) for the first time was real neat. I can’t wait to get all the markings and branding up. It just makes it different, the players can tell you what they think, but it just sounds and looks different in the stadium.”
Junior quarterback Troy Cook got the starting nod for the Skyhawks under center. Making his second career start, Cook completed 10-of-12 pass attempts for 167 yards and four touchdowns. Redshirt-freshman Kyle Akin and senior Ian Leggett also made their Skyhawk debuts in the contest. Akin completed 2-of-3 passes for 48 yards and one touchdown while Leggett recorded four rushing yards.
Martin native Ty Brown made the most of increased reps in the second half, leading the team in rushing with 10 carries for 53 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Jaimiee Bowe also made the most of his six carries, tallying 22 yards and two touchdowns. Junior newcomer Marquez Grayson also scored his first Skyhawk touchdown while tallying four carries for 20 yards.
The Skyhawk receiving core tallied five touchdown receptions while no one notched more than two catches on the afternoon. Junior Caylon Weathers tallied two catches for 17 yards and two touchdowns while the duo of Kyle Kerrick and Jaylon Moore each tallied two receptions and one touchdown. Senior Greg McKillion also reached the endzone for the first time in his Skyhawk career with one catch for 24 yards.
For as explosive as the UT Martin offense was on Saturday, the defense was equally as impressive. After allowing an early touchdown, the Skyhawks allowed just 34 yards of total offense for the remainder of the game while holding Bacone to -17 net rushing yards. Junior Justin Jackson paced the team with seven tackles on the day while the trio of Joseph Este, Donald Cofield, Jr. and Joseph Murry tallied five tackles each. The duo of Chris Coleman and Trey Warren each recovered fumbles while Tae Martin returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown.
Bacone (0-3) was led offensively by quarterback Trey Seward who completed 13-of-24 passes for 135 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Johnny Thomas (22 yards) and Stephone Revels (21 yards) led the team in rushing. Antonio Wilson tallied three catches for 45 yards and one touchdown. Defensively, Erik King paced the team with nine tackles.
The Skyhawks jumped out to an early lead and only built from there. The first drive of the contest took just two plays before Cook found Kerrick for a 45-yard touchdown over the middle. With the touchdown, the Skyhawks were on the board just 43 seconds into the contest. Bacone would quickly respond, stringing together a 12-play, 84-yard drive which resulted in a 28-yard touchdowns from Seward to Wilson making it a 7-6 contest.
After giving up the game’s lone touchdown to the Warriors, UT Martin would score 77 unanswered points to run away with the victory. With the Skyhawks’ second drive, Cook once again moved through the air competing a pass to Rod Williams for 27 yards before finding Weathers for a six-yard touchdown to put the squad on top 14-6. The Skyhawks would get on the board again later in the first as Martin returned an interception tipped by James Gilleylen and Sheldon Dawson for 36 yards for a touchdown. Looking for a final punctuation, the Skyhawks notched the most points in the first quarter since 2012 with an 11-yard touchdown from Cook to Weathers’ for the duo’s second connection.
Already leading 28-6 after the first quarter, UT Martin would score 35 points in the second quarter to post the most point in a single half during the Simpson coaching era. UT Martin would start its high-scoring second quarter with a 24-yard touchdown from Cook to McKillion for the receiver’s first touchdown as a Skyhawk. The Skyhawks would find scores on both sides of the ball in the second as Bowe tallied a two-yard touchdown while Warren recovered a botched snap in the endzone for a touchdown. The running back duo of Grayson and Bowe would punch in a pair of short runs for scores in the final minutes of the half to give the Skyhawks a 63-6 advantage heading into the break.
With the final score as the only thing in question, both coaches would decide to play the second half in two, 10 minute quarters. UT Martin would score its lone touchdown of the third quarter following a seven-play, 29-yard drive. With first and goal, Brown – a Martin native – would score his first collegiate touchdown on a three-yard rush.
With the team’s depth receiving a chance to play in the second half, a pair of second team performers would put UT Martin on the board for another 14 points in the final period of play. Making his Skyhawk debut, Akin would start the second half before finally finding the endzone in the fourth quarter. Facing fourth and seven, Akin would find Moore for a 45-yard completion down the left sideline for the pair’s first career touchdowns. With the time running out, the Skyhawks would keep the ball on the ground on the team’s final possession before Brown completed the afternoon with a two-yard rush to bring the score to its final decision of 84-6.
UT Martin will now turn its focus to Ohio Valley Conference play when the Skyhawks play host to Tennessee Tech on Saturday, Sept. 24. The conference opener also serves as the first of three contests in the annual Sgt. York Trophy series – a series in which the Skyhawks have swept the past two seasons. Kickoff from Graham Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m.