UT MARTIN FOOTBALL PICKS UP DECISIVE 21-7 ROAD VICTORY AT NO. 15 CHATTANOOGA
September 16, 2017
MARTIN, Tenn. – While the game wasn’t included in the quest for a fourth straight Sgt. York Trophy, the University of Tennessee at Martin football team showed no hesitation in displaying its in-state dominance a week early with a 21-7 road victory over No. 15 ranked Chattanooga on Saturday night.
The Skyhawks (2-1) controlled the game from start to finish, scoring on the team’s second drive of the game, building a lead as large as 21 points and never looking back down the stretch. Hitting the road for the second time this season, the Skyhawks notched their first win over a ranked opponent of the season, while picking up their first upset over a top-15 program since defeating No. 7 Central Arkansas in 2013.
"It was a good football game,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “We knew coming in here – we had talked all week long that we needed to get it to the fourth quarter because Chattanooga has a good team. They were as good as I thought they were on defense because we didn’t have a whole lot of yards, we just made a couple plays. Our defense kept giving us good field position. I probably got a little conservative but that’s the good thing about having a senior quarterback – he’s not worried about his stats. He just plays to win the game and I appreciate Troy for that. Overall, it was a great team win.”
UT Martin picked up a quality non-conference victory behind a balanced offense which saw several names steal the show while being backed by a stingy defense which held the Mocs without a first down deep into the third quarter before limiting the squad to just six rushing yards – the lowest allowed since holding Eastern Illinois to minus-five yards on Oct. 22, 2011 - and 144 yards of total offense. Winning nearly every statistical category, the Skyhawks tallied 16 first downs while accumulating 293 yards of offense and a pair of forced turnovers.
When asked how it felt for the program to pick up a big road victory over a top-15 program, Simpson did not shy away. “It does feel nice especially because I think we should be ranked. That’s my personal opinion coming off a year like we had last year. These guys woke up this morning, they look at the newspaper and we are picked to get beat 31-21. Everybody picked us to get beat but that’s alright – that’s the fun part of it. It makes my job easier on the motivation – our guys were ready to play and we performed really well.”
Offensively, the Skyhawks were led by senior quarterback Troy Cook who managed an efficient pace. Cook completed 16-of-21 passes for 183 yards and three touchdowns, marking the sixth time in his career that he tallied at least three touchdowns in a contest. Highlighting the receiving core was senior Londell Lee who caught four passes for 104 yards while the duo of Brett Thompson and Jaylon Moore each notched touchdown receptions.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Skyhawks’ darkside proved fierce once again. Manhandling the Mocs front five, the Skyhawks tallied five sacks on the evening, the most since tallying eight against Tennessee Tech on Oct. 3, 2015. Junior Anthony Brown who tallied a pair along with a forced fumble led the Skyhawks in the sack category while Kevin Prather, Jr., Jay Murphy and Mike Turner each joined in the action.
Junior linebacker James Gilleylen and cornerback Chris Williams-Hall tied with a game-high seven tackles on the night while Prather (six) and Garrett Wall (five) also posted strong evenings. Pacing a squad which has forced six turnovers on the season was Tae Martin and Mike Turner who notched an interception and fumble recovery, respectively. With yet another interception, Martin - the country’s interception leader – became the first Skyhawk to tally three consecutive games with an interception since Cam Harris in November of 2013.
“When your defense is playing like that, eventually we figured they were going to throw it to us and we were going to get that big turnover,” said Simpson. “I’m proud of our defensive staff. Chattanooga will get better – that quarterback is going to be a good player but we got after him tonight with a three-man rush. We take a lot of pride in our defense. Last year, we were second in our league in total defense and we scored seven touchdowns on defense. We have a lot of those same guys back.”
UT Martin will look to start Ohio Valley Conference play out strong with a matchup against nationally ranked Tennessee State for Family Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 23. With several attractions planned for the afternoon in conjunction with Family Weekend at UT Martin, kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. from Hardy M. Graham Stadium on ESPN3.