MARTIN, Tenn. – The No. 22 University of Tennessee at Martin football team threw for a season-high 370 yards this afternoon against Jacksonville State but it wasn’t enough as the Skyhawks fell 41-27 on Homecoming at Hardy Graham Stadium.
UT Martin (3-2, 1-1 Ohio Valley Conference) also set a season-high with 493 yards of total offense today. Dylan Favre completed 66.7 percent of his pass attempts (24-for-36) for a career-best 290 yards and two touchdowns. Jarod Neal (5-for-6 for 72 yards and a 29-yard rushing touchdown) and Tyler Rice (2-for-6 for eight yards) also saw time at quarterback today.
Jeremy Butler hauled in a game-high eight receptions for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Chris Thompson also made an impact today, making seven catches for 107 yards – his second career 100-yard receiving game.
OVC rushing leader DJ McNeil tallied 60 yards on 14 carries to lead the Skyhawk ground game today.
Defensively, UT Martin was led by J’vontez Blackmon, who made a season-high nine tackles, including a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Bobby Ellis (nine tackles) and Tyler Sweeden (1.5 tackles for loss) also paced the Skyhawks.
Jacksonville State (5-1, 1-1 OVC) was led by DaMarcus James’ 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Max Shortell threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns while Josh Barge caught five passes for 114 yards.
“We didn’t score enough touchdowns,” Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson said. “It doesn’t matter about yards, it matters about scoring points. And defensively, we can’t give up those big plays. I thought we played hard today but give Jacksonville State credit.”
Jacksonville State scored on its first possession of the game, going three plays for 69 yards in 44 seconds to take a 7-0 lead at the 12:23 mark of the first quarter.
The Skyhawks then put together a sustained drive of 13 plays but came up a half-yard short on a fourth-and-two rush play from the Jacksonville State 21-yard line.
A little under four minutes later, the Gamecocks would have to settle for a field goal from 38 yards out after the Skyhawk defense held strong for three straight plays of no gain.
UT Martin’s offense then took over, going 75 yards in seven plays to slice its deficit to 10-7. The Skyhawks gained at least five yards on six of the seven plays on the drive, capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Favre to Butler in the back left corner of the endzone.
A 47-yard punt return by Kevin Anderson set up a UT Martin score on its next possession, as Jackson Redditt split the uprights from 37 yards out to knot the score at 10-all with 12:03 remaining in the second quarter.
Both teams traded punts on their next possession until two big plays gave Jacksonville State a 17-10 advantage with 5:09 to go in the second quarter.
The Skyhawks threatened to put more points on the scoreboard but a costly turnover occurred at the 1:52 mark. Jacksonville State took advantage of the short field and converted a third-and-four pass play for a touchdown to take a 24-10 lead at the half.
UT Martin’s defense made a statement to start the third quarter, holding the Gamecocks to just one yard on a three-and-out in the opening possession of the second half.
The Skyhawks then marched down the field for another lengthy scoring drive, this time a 14-play, 78-yard drive that lasted 5:11. Favre connected with Butler once again for a 17-yard touchdown strike to make the score 24-17 at the 8:54 mark.
UT Martin’s defense forced another punt on Jacksonville State’s next possession but the Skyhawks would turn the ball over two plays later. The Gamecocks would add another field goal with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter to go ahead 27-17.
Six plays later, UT Martin would answer right back with a field goal of its own, as Redditt drilled a 44-yard attempt for his second field goal of the afternoon. That made the score 27-20 with 2:03 left to play in the third quarter.
Both squads swapped punts again before Jacksonville State scored the next 14 points of the game. UT Martin would add a touchdown late with a 29-yard rush by Neal but time ran out on the Skyhawk comeback effort.
The Skyhawks now face a short week, as they will travel to OVC rival Tennessee Tech on Thursday, Oct. 10. Kickoff for the game, which is the first of three in the Sgt. York Trophy series for UT Martin, is slated for 7 p.m.