UT MARTIN RETURNS TO ITS WINNING WAYS WITH 27-10 VICTORY OVER EASTERN ILLINOIS
October 28, 2017
Postgame Press Conference
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team scored in every facet of the game en route to snapping a season-long three-game losing streak with a dominating 27-10 victory over Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Illinois on Saturday afternoon.
The Skyhawks (4-4, 2-3 OVC) controlled the contest throughout the game, using every component of the squad to score points. After allowing an early turnover on the team’s first play from scrimmage, UT Martin would force five turnovers in the contest – including one defensive touchdown – while playing efficiently on offense and special teams with a pair of touchdown passes and two field goals, respectively.
In a game which saw UT Martin total just 51 offensive plays, the Skyhawks maintained a stable offense which scored a pair of touchdowns through the air despite subdued statistics. Even with just 192 yards of total offense, the Skyhawks could maintain its gameplan behind a stingy defense which made plays throughout the afternoon. Five turnovers proved costly for the Panthers as they directly resulted in one touchdown while setting up two scoring drives on a pair of interceptions.
“Obviously it’s good to get the monkey off our back. It’s been a tough three weeks,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “The win was great – it’s awesome to go down in to a happy locker room. I knew these stats were going to be ugly as the flow of the game went. But I’m going to tell you what I’m most proud of – I don’t know if I’ve ever had this in 12 years where we won a game with three starting defensive backs knocked out of the game. So you have three backups going in there and playing. Our starting long snapper also went out during the game. So other guys are stepping up and making plays. For the defense to hold them to 275 yards and get five turnovers, that’s awesome – I’m real proud of those guys.”
True freshman Dresser Winn earned the start at quarterback once again, completing 5-of-7 passes for 83 yards while also scrambling for 32 yards on 12 carries. Senior Troy Cook also saw action, competing 3-of-5 attempts for 29 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Junior Ladarius Galloway paced the Skyhawks with 14 carries for 55 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, junior wide receiver Devonte Howard led the receiving core with a pair of receptions for 50 yards while Jaylon Moore and Donnell Williams made the most of their respective catches, tallying a touchdown each.
Defensively, UT Martin showed why its one of the top units in the country. After entering the contest with the eighth ranked defense in the country, the Skyhawks limited the Panthers to just 275 yards – including 75 rushing yards. Additionally, the squad limited the Panthers to just 10 points on the day after entering the contest allowing an average of 17.0 points per game which ranked 11th nationally.
Junior linebackers Garrett Wall and James Gilleylen tallied nine tackles each while combining for two tackles for loss. Limited to just one half of play before suffering an injury, safety standout Kahlid Hagens posted a big performance, tallying six tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception. As a whole, the Skyhawks would tallying a pair of sacks and eight tackles for loss while Gilleylen, Hagens, Tae Martin and Andrew Horton-Martindale each notched interceptions. Along with the team’s interceptions, it was a strip sack which was recovered in the air by junior Anthony Brown that he returned 17 yards for a touchdown which gave the Skyhawks their first lead of the contest.
“I was real proud of our sideline and the mentality of our kids,” said Simpson. “The energy was good and our defense doesn’t waver – they go out there and get a stop, hold them to a field goal. Then we are able to match that the next time we got the ball. Then our defense scored and anytime your defense scores, it’s such a jolt for you and brings such energy. We’ve created a culture where we expect to get defensive scores. Today, they came our way and we had four interceptions and a fumble return.”
Joining in the scoring production was senior specialist Mitch Mersman. Despite windy playing conditions, Mersman would convert all three point after attempts while making two of three field goal attempts. A first quarter 23-yard field goal tied the contest with 4:26 to play before putting the finishing touches on the game with a 35-yard attempt to open the fourth quarter and cap the game’s scoring.
“I’m proud of the kids, I’m proud of the coaches and I’m proud of how we got this win today,” said Simpson.
UT Martin will hit the road for its next contest with a matchup at OVC foe Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Nov. 4. Kickoff from Houck Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.