MARTIN, Tenn. – Senior Jeremy Butler hauled in game-highs of 10 receptions and 129 receiving yards for the University of Tennessee at Martin football team but the Skyhawks fell 29-15 to No. 22 Tennessee State at Hardy Graham Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Butler added a touchdown today for UT Martin (4-3, 2-2 Ohio Valley Conference) who outgained Tennessee State 327-229 in total offense. Jarod Neal made his third start of the season this afternoon and set new career-highs in completions (24) and attempts (45) while adding 242 passing yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, DJ McNeil led the Skyhawks with 54 yards while Trent Garland scored a touchdown for UT Martin.
Defensively, Ben Johnson paced the Skyhawks with nine tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and a half-sack. Thad Williams and Deantae Glover also added 1.5 tackles for loss today for UT Martin, who limited the Tigers to 69 yards rushing on 37 carries.
For Tennessee State (7-1, 4-0 OVC), Ronald Butler threw for 160 yards and a touchdown while Ryan Mitchell (five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown) and Tim Broughton (22 carries for 86 yards) also led the Tigers.
“Obviously it’s a disappointing loss,” UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson said. “Tennessee State is a good football team – that’s the best team we’ve played in my eight years. They didn’t just sneak in here, we knew how good they were. We kept competing until the end. We just have to get better.”
The Skyhawk defense dominated early, holding Tennessee State to -5 yards in its first two drives. The Tigers were forced to punt again on their third drive but a 51-yard pass play on the first play of Tennessee State’s fourth drive put the Tigers ahead 7-0 with 2:09 to play in the first quarter.
On its ensuing offensive possession, UT Martin marched the ball down into field goal range behind a pair of 12-yard rushes by McNeil. However, the Tiger defense forced a fumble and took over possession with just two seconds left in the first quarter.
UT Martin held the Tigers once again, forcing Tennessee State to punt for the fourth time. The Skyhawk offense once again moved the ball down the field on their next drive, courtesy of a 21-yard rush by punter James Satterfield on a fake punt from the UT Martin 34-yard line. The Skyhawks lined up for a 40-yard field goal attempt but the kick was blocked and returned 54 yards for a Tiger touchdown at the 10:12 mark of the second quarter.
Two plays later, Tennessee State intercepted a pass and took it back 20 yards for a touchdown to give the Tigers a 21-0 lead.
On UT Martin’s next drive, three penalties pinned the Skyhawks deep into their own territory and Tennessee State tallied a safety to make the score 23-0 with 8:10 to go before halftime.
The Skyhawk defense then came up with another hold, as J’vontez Blackmon broke through to block a 41-yard field goal attempt to give UT Martin the ball back at its own 24-yard line.
UT Martin then put together a lengthy 13-play drive that would take it down to the Tiger 11-yard line. However, time ran out on a Skyhawk field goal attempt to conclude the first half.
Despite UT Martin trailing at the half, the Skyhawk offense had outgained Tennessee State by a 168-138 margin at the halftime break.
The Skyhawks made a statement to open the second half, corralling Tennessee State’s Telvin Hooks for a four-yard loss on fourth-and-two at the UT Martin 47-yard line.
UT Martin followed with a 10-play, 49-yard scoring drive, capped off with an 11-yard touchdown strike on a fade route from Neal to Butler. After a Jackson Redditt PAT, the Skyhawks trailed 23-7 with 9:04 to go in the third quarter.
The Skyhawk defense forced Tennessee State to punt once again but UT Martin fumbled on the return and the Tigers fell on the ball.
Tennessee State would add three more points on a 44-yard field goal at the 3:53 mark of the third quarter.
On the Tigers’ next possession, Tennessee State would go ahead 29-7 thanks to another field goal at the 11:04 mark.
The Skyhawks would add one more score, as Garland barreled in from two yards out to cap off a 14-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 3:11. After Garland successfully ran the ball in for a two-point conversion, the score was 29-15 with 1:33 remaining.
An onside kick followed but Tennessee State recovered and ran out the clock.
UT Martin returns to the road next week when it travels to in-state OVC rival Austin Peay. Kickoff from Clarksville is scheduled for 4 p.m.