SKYHAWKS RETURN TO OVC PLAY BY HOSTING EASTERN KENTUCKY ON SATURDAY
October 24, 2016
After a brief break from Ohio Valley Conference play, the University of Tennessee at Martin football team will play host to conference rival Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 29. Kickoff from Hardy M. Graham Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m.
This game serves as a matchup of two of the best OVC programs in recent history. Since 2008, Eastern Kentucky (45 OVC wins) and UT Martin (44 OVC wins) rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in league victories. These two programs have not finished below .500 in conference play and have combined for eight top-two OVC finishes during that span.
The Skyhawks (4-4, 3-1 OVC) enter the contest looking to get back to the team’s winning ways as of late after snapping a brief two-game winning streak with a 31-6 setback at Football Bowl Subdivision foe Georgia State over the past weekend. The Skyhawks struggled offensively in the contest but left its mark as a defense, not only forcing a pair of turnovers but limiting the Panthers to 285 yards of total offense – ranking as the second fewest total yards allowed against a FBS opponent in school history.
UT Martin boast the OVC’s top ranked scoring offense at 36.2 points per game behind one of the nation’s leaders in pass efficiency Troy Cook (164.4) who has completed 111-of-183 passes for 1,657 yards and 19 touchdowns. Running back Jaimiee Bowe paces the squad with 112 carries for 459 yards and five touchdowns while Ben Axline leading the receiving core with 29 catches for 545 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Skyhawks are paced by Kahlid Hagens with 62 tackles while Tae Martin and Joseph Este leads the squad with two interceptions and five pass breakups each. Keith Jones and Caleb Counce have tallied 7.5 tackles for loss while Counce lead the team with 4.0 sacks. As a team, the Skyhawks have yet to allow over 300-yards through the air this season.
UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson is currently in his 11th season at the helm of the Skyhawks with an overall record of 69-53 and 54-31 league mark. Simpson currently sits ninth on the OVC’s all-time wins list while ranking as the league’s longest active tenured coach. With one more win, Simpson will tie Wilburn Tucker from Tennessee Tech with 70. Eastern Kentucky is coached by first-year head coach Mark Elder who possess a 2-4 career mark.
Eastern Kentucky (2-5, 1-3 OVC) enters the contest after suffering a 24-7 loss to defending national championship runner-up and No. 2 ranked Jacksonville State last week. The Colonels held one of the nation’s best teams to zero offensive touchdowns but could not overcome tossing five interceptions – including three which were returned for touchdowns - which proved to be the difference in the game. Overall the Colonels are looking to snap a two-game losing streak.
The Colonels hold a strong grasp on the series matchup with a 23-3 advantage, with all three wins for the Skyhawks coming during the Jason Simpson era while seven of the last nine games between the two programs have been decided by single-digits. The Skyhawks are looking for their first win at home against the Colonels since 2010 when the home squad posted a 10-7 victory.
The game will be streamed live, free of charge, courtesy of the OVC Digital Network 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. WUTM, UT Martin’s award-winning student radio station, will also broadcast the game locally on 90.3 FM. Links for both radio broadcasts, along with live stats can be accessed through their respective links above. For in-game updates, follow the Skyhawks on twitter @UTM_Gameday.