August 12, 2017

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team concluded its 10th practice of fall camp with the squad’s first scrimmage on the field of Hardy M. Graham Stadium on Saturday evening. With a number of fans in the stands, the Skyhawk defense put on a show with four turnovers and a pair of scores to highlight the evening.

“It was physical and I think the defense got the better of the offense tonight and that’s good,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “We can run and hit. We tackle well and played good team defense tonight. There are a lot of players on defense that have played a lot of football for us here. They have a lot of pride and if we can make a team snap it again, we can force some turnovers.”

After boasting one of the best defenses in the country a season ago, the Skyhawks #Darkside showed few signs of taking a step back heading into the 2017 season. While looking to replace the production of a pair of All-OVC performers on the defensive line in Damani Taylor and Keith Jones, it was sophomore Donald Cofield, Jr. who made a lasting impression early in the scrimmage with a strip sack which he returned for a touchdown.

Just two series later, it was STATS FCS Preseason All-American Kahlid Hagens which made a splash on the defensive side. Facing third down, Hagens would outmatch his offensive counterpart and intercept senior Troy Cook down the right sideline to stall yet another drive. Later in the exhibition Joseph Este would spoil a trick play attempt and return an interception thrown by Londell Lee back 19 yards for a touchdown.

The Skyhawk defense would force their fourth and final turnover midway through the night as sophomore TJ Jefferson intercepted an errant throw by Clay Beathard. Along with the quartet of turnovers, All-OVC honoree Tae Martin continued his knack for big plays by blocking a punt.

“I thought some guys did some really good things tonight and I’m proud of the fact that they showed up ready to play,” said defensive coordinator Jordon Hankins. “We have a couple things going this year with different sayings we have in our building, but at the end of the day, it’s about finding a way to come away with the ball. When you consider that they are 10 practices in, along with all of the walk-throughs, team meetings, weights and everything else, for them to have the focus that they showed tonight proves that we are heading in the right direction.”

Despite the early scrimmage woes, the Skyhawk offense would begin to find their stride down the stretch as they tallied three touchdowns. Second-string quarterback Kyle Akin would get the offense on the board with a 16-yard strike to sophomore Rodney Williams II to break the scoreless streak on the scrimmage’s 80th play.

The Skyhawk offense would strike again as Beathard scored a touchdown on a quarterback keeper from two yards out. Cook would later cap the evening’s touchdown total just three plays later after hitting Jaylon Moore for a 12-yard strike for a touchdown.

While the offense and defense garnered much of the night’s attention, the Skyhawk specialists also contributed. Freshman Ryan Courtright manned kickoff duties while senior Brett Arkelian converted 2-of-3 field goal attempts with successful tries from 22 and 25 yards.

UT Martin will return to the practice field on Monday, Aug. 14 at 7:15 p.m.

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