September 10, 2013

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MARTIN, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee at Martin football team will play in front of the home crowd for the first time all season when it hosts the No. 7 Central Arkansas Bears at Hardy M. Graham Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

This game marks the 2013 home opener for UT Martin, who split the first two games of the season against formidable opponents on the road (won at Chattanooga on Aug. 29, lost at Boise State on Sept. 7). The Skyhawks are 46-34-3 all-time in home openers and are 6-1 in such games under head coach Jason Simpson, averaging 41.0 points per game in that span. UT Martin has won five straight home openers – the longest such streak in school history – and has won nine of the last 11 home openers since 2002.

Central Arkansas leads the all-time series 7-4 in a series that dates back to 1958. This will be the fourth time that UT Martin hosts Central Arkansas for its home opener (1959, 1965, 2005), as the Skyhawks have won each of the last two games played in Martin (48-14 in 1967, 35-34 in 2005). This game marks the start of a new four-year series between UT Martin and Central Arkansas, as they will play in Conway in 2014, followed by a game in Martin in 2015 and a game in Conway in 2016.

This game pits two of the best programs in recent Football Championship Subdivision history. Since 2006 under head coach Jason Simpson, the Skyhawks have posted three seasons of at least eight victories, going 46-35 (.568 winning percentage) with a 35-20 record (.636) against Ohio Valley Conference opponents. Meanwhile Central Arkansas has posted three seasons of at least nine wins since joining the FCS ranks in 2007 under head coach Clint Conque. The Bears have gone 47-26 overall (.644) with a 29-13 mark (.690) against Southland Conference foes. These two teams have combined for three appearances in the FCS playoffs (UT Martin in 2006, Central Arkansas in 2011, 2012).

UT Martin (1-1) is coming off a 63-14 road loss at Football Bowl Subdivision powerhouse Boise State last Saturday. The Skyhawks gained 357 yards (210 passing, 147 rushing) on the afternoon and picked up 19 first downs against the Broncos, who lead the FBS with an .871 winning percentage since 2000. Despite the loss, Jeremy Butler (game-highs of nine receptions and 118 yards), DJ McNeil (game-highs of 19 carries and 87 yards) made some noise on offense while Ben Johnson (game-high 10 tackles) and Tony Bell (game-high five tackles for loss) chalked up spectacular efforts defensively.

Central Arkansas (1-1) enters the game ranked No. 7 in the FCS Coaches Poll. The Bears narrowly fell 38-24 to FBS Pac 12 member Colorado last Saturday. In that game, Central Arkansas led 24-17 in the fourth quarter before the Buffaloes ended the game with 21 unanswered points in the final 10:43. Quarterback Wynrick Smothers accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) for Central Arkansas, while the Bear defense forced four turnovers and limited Colorado to just 84 yards rushing on 34 carries.

The game will be streamed live, free of charge courtesy of the OVC Digital Network. That link, as well as a link for live stats, is listed at the top of the page. Tom Britt (play-by-play) and Chris Brinkley (color) will provide analysis live on the radio airwaves on WCMT 101.3 FM.