CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team wasted little time making their presence known on both sides of the ball as the Skyhawks knocked off Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay 38-14 at Governors Stadium.
The Skyhawks (5-3, 3-2 OVC) piled up 482 yards tonight while several players climbed UT Martin all-time scoring lists. Senior running back DJ McNeil gained 114 rushing yards on 17 carries to go along with a touchdown – the 18th rushing score of his career. Abou Toure also added a touchdown on the ground with 64 rushing yards on four carries. Trent Garland also tallied a redzone touchdown to go along with 28 yards on the ground.
Redshirt sophomore Jarod Neal completed 21-of-33 passes for a career-high 293 yards and two touchdowns. Classmate Tyler Rice also saw action in the closing minutes of action.
Jeremy Butler one again led the UT Martin receivers with 11 receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns – the 16th and 17th receiving scores of his career. Chris Thompson added four catches for 72 yards for the Skyhawks.
Defensively, UT Martin held the Governors to 332 yards of total offense. Camaren Harris led the Skyhawks with nine tackles. Seniors J’Vontez Blackmon and Bobby Ellis each tallied eight tackles on the night, including 2.5 tackles for loss by Ellis.
Placekicker Jackson Redditt was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra point tries. Redditt converted on his long field goal attempt, nailing the 38-yard attempt.
Austin Peay was led by redshirt freshman Timar Mitchell who made his first career start for the Governors. Mitchell completed 12-of-26 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns. Omar Williams led the Govs with 122 rushing yards. Jamaar Embry tallied 46 yards on six receptions while Darryl Clack caught two passes for 11 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was good to see the offense get a few more touchdowns this week,” said UT Martin head football coach Jason Simpson. “I’m proud of the win as we’re still hanging around and keeping UT Martin in the conversation. The kids work so hard during the week and it’s good to get several players into the game.”
Austin Peay came out on their first possession with a quick attack, picking up two long runs for first downs to open their initial drive. The Skyhawks would quickly regain their composure when the Governors reached midfield, forcing Austin Peay to punt. Butler dropped back for the return, returning the punt 28-yard to the UTM 42.
The Skyhawks would look to waste little time on their opening drive, showing a frequently used hurry-up offense. The possession began with three rushes by McNeil, gaining 27 yards. Giving McNeil a breather, the Skyhawks called Toure’s number, as the junior broke four tackles on the way to a 31-yard trip to the endzone. The score was the junior’s second of the season, giving the Skyhawks the quick 7-0 lead after Redditt’s extra point at the 11:09 mark.
After forcing Austin Peay to punt on their ensuing drive, the Skyhawks took over possession on their own 22 yard line before marching down the field for a meticulous 14-play, 78 yard scoring drive. McNeil continued his torrid beginning, picking up another 11-yard gain, followed by an 18-yard reception from Neal to Matt Stewart. Neal moved the Skyhawks down the field, completing six passes for 67 yards on the drive.
McNeil flirted with his first touchdown of the game, rushing across the left side for the would-be score before the play was called back for a holding penalty. The senior running back would not be stopped however, scampering into the right corner of the endzone just two plays later for a nine-yard score. The score was McNeil’s fourth of the season, moving the running back into a three-way tie for fourth place on the all-time career rushing touchdowns list.
Despite being forced to punt for the third time in the first quarter, the Austin Peay defense came up with the game’s first turnover as John Shuler intercepted Neal’s opening pass. After the 14-yard return, the Govs would begin their drive on the Skyhawk 34. Mitchell connected with Javier Booker for a 26-yard reception to close out the first quarter. Following a pair of unsuccessful rushing attempts, the Govs looked to the air again as Mitchell connected with Clack for the five-yard touchdown reception at the 14:13 mark. Mitchell’s touchdown ranked as the first passing touchdown for Austin Peay on the year and third overall.
Following the Austin Peay score, the Skyhawks looked to the air again but found similar results as Neal’s pass was intercepted by brother of Skyhawk Leon Carlton, Austin Peay’s Montez Carlton. Results for the the Govs were not quite as favorable as the previous possession as the Skyhawk defense held tight, forcing the offense’s fourth punt of the evening.
Coming off yet another defensive stand, the offense looked to McNeil again, picking up the 13-yard carry to move the Skyhawks into opponent territory. Following McNeil’s second rush of the drive, Neal looked to raid the air by hitting Butler and Chris Thompson for consecutive first downs good for 10 and 18 yards, respectively. Neal capped off the drive with a 21-yard completion to Butler, resulting in a touchdown with 8:42 to play in the second quarter.
UT Martin took a 21-7 advantage into the halftime break in addition to nearly doubling Austin Peay in total offense (263 to 146).
The Skyhawks came out firing in the second half, scoring touchdowns on the team’s first two possessions of the half. UT Martin’s first possession began on their own 22 before the Skyhawks put together an eight play, 78-yard scoring drive. McNeil used a 30-yard rush across the right side to surpass the 100-yard mark. Neal quickly converted on four passes, hitting Butler for three. The night’s common story of Neal and Butler’s chemistry continued as the pair tallied their second touchdown of the evening on a six-yard completion. Butler’s leaping grab moved the explosive senior up the all-time career touchdown receptions list with his 17th score of his two-year Skyhawk career.
After yet another defensive stop for the Skyhawks, Neal continued his air raid with three consecutive completions. Neal hit Butler for 21-yards before connecting with Thompson for a pair of completions good for 18 and 26 yards, respectively. With the Skyhawks on the APSU four, Garland got his first touch of the day, plunging in for a four-yard touchdown up the middle. Following Redditt’s fifth extra-point of the night, the Skyhawks held a 35-7 advantage with 8:34 to play in the third.
Austin Peay would respond on their ensuing possession, putting together a nine-play, 85 yard scoring drive. Mitchell, drove the Govs down the field after connecting with Embry for a 24-yard reception. Mitchell and the Govs continued marching down the field before capping off the drive with a six-yard pass to Clack for the duo’s second touchdown connection of the day. With the touchdown the Govs set a new season-high in points to go along with the team’s first two passing touchdowns of the season, bringing the score to 35-14 at the end of the third.
The Governors followed the scoring drive with a key special teams play, recovering the ensuing kickoff’s fumble as Steven Rich recovered the miscue. With the defense facing tough field position as the Govs took over on the Skyhawks’ own 17, UT Martin forced a decisive turnover on downs.
UT Martin would put its stamp on the final scoring drive of the night at the 6:11 mark of the fourth. Neal converted with Butler for the final time, good for 26-yards, setting a season high for Butler with 171 yards. As the time dwindle, the Skyhawks called upon Redditt for the team’s first field goal try of the evening. Redditt would nail the 38-yard try to give the Skyhawks the final score of 38-14.
UT Martin will be back in action on Saturday, Nov. 2 when they play host to OVC rival Murray State at Hardy Graham Stadium. Fans are encouraged to wear white in attempt to “White Out” the stands. Kickoff between the Skyhawks and Racers is scheduled for 1 p.m.