SKYHAWKS SET FOR MUSIC CITY SHOWDOWN AT TENNESSEE STATE ON SATURDAY
September 26, 2016
MARTIN, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee at Martin football team will look to build upon its title defense of the coveted Sgt. York Trophy on Saturday, Oct. 1 with a trip to Tennessee State. Kickoff from Hale Graham Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be featured as the OVC Football Game of the Week on ESPN3.
Saturday’s game serves as the second of three games for UT Martin in the 10th annual Sgt. York Trophy series, presented by Delta Dental of Tennessee. The Sgt. York Trophy goes to the winner of the quadrangular season series between the four OVC football playing schools located in the state of Tennessee (Austin Peay, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin). The Skyhawks have swept the Sgt. York Trophy series the past two seasons - adding their fourth title (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015) in series history. UT Martin is 20-8 all-time in the series - the best mark of the four schools. Additionally, the Skyhawks are 12-1 against in-state foes since 2013.
The Skyhawks (2-2, 1-0 OVC) picked up their second consecutive victory behind an effective passing attack along with scoring power from the team’s defensive and special teams units. Much like against Bacone during Week 3, the Skyhawks used a 43-yard onside kick return by Tae Martin and an 86-yard interception return by Julian Thompson-Clay to notch a pair of defensive and special team touchdowns to seal the team’s 44-23 victory over Tennessee Tech. With the victory, the Skyhawks improved to 7-3 in OVC openers under head coach Jason Simpson.
Quarterback Troy Cook completed 9-of-16 pass attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Despite starting against Hawai’i and Bacone, Cook entered against Tennessee Tech in relief but quickly jump-started the offense by orchestrating touchdowns on three of his first four drives - including touchdown passes of 40 and 41 yards. The wide receiver duo of Greg McKillion and Londell Lee both tallied receiving touchdowns while Ladevin Fair and Jaimiee Bowe each notched rushing touchdowns.
Defensively, the Skyhawks got in the backfield, flushing Tennessee Tech’s signal-caller out of the pocket throughout the day while notching three sacks by Caleb Counce (1.0), Donald Cofield, Jr. (1.0), Jay Murphy (0.5) and Keith Jones (0.5). Counce also paced the Skyhawks with a career performance, notching nine tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss along with a quarterback hurry. As a team, UT Martin has forced 10 turnovers on the season while leading the OVC in turnover margin at +2.
UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson is currently in his 11th season at the helm of the Skyhawks with an overall record of 67-51 and 52-30 league mark. Simpson currently sits ninth on the OVC’s all-time wins list while ranking as the league’s longest active tenured coach. Tennessee State is coached by seventh-year head coach Rod Reed who possesses a 39-33 overall record and 18-27 mark in OVC play.
Tennessee State (3-0, 0-0 OVC) enters the contest as the league’s lone unbeaten squad after notching victories over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Jackson State and Bethune-Cookman. Fresh off a bye week, the Tigers rank second in the OVC in scoring offense by averaging 38.3 points per game (second only to UT Martin) while leading the league in scoring defense by allowing just 16.7 ppg. The Tigers also boast an offensive line which has yet to allow a sack on the season setting up an offense which averages 416.3 yards per game.
Running back Erick Evans paces the ground attack with 46 carries, 215 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback Ronald Butler will look for key receivers Patrick Smith (14 catches, 189 yards and three touchdowns) and Steven Newbold (12 catches, 274 yards and two touchdowns) to carry the load offensively. Defensively, Tennessee State is led by Ebo Ogundeko who paces the team with 21 tackles - including 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
This will be the 25th matchup between the two in-state rivals with Tennessee State holding a 15-10 series margin. UT Martin has won six of the last eight showdowns against the Tigers, including the program’s first road win at Tennessee State since 2008 and first win at Hale Stadium in program history with a 21-16 victory in 2014.
The game will be featured as the OVC Football Game of the Week on ESPN3 or WatchESPN app at the link above. Fans can also tune into Mix 101.3 FM to hear Tom Britt (play-by-play), Chris Brinkley (color) and John Abel (sideline) provide analysis. Links for the broadcast along with live stats can be accessed through their respective links above. For in-game updates, follow the Skyhawks on twitter @UTM_Gameday.