November 18, 2013

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MARTIN, Tenn. - The University of Tennessee at Martin football team will go for its third victory over a ranked opponent in 2013 when it hosts Ohio Valley Conference regular season champion No. 2 Eastern Illinois at Hardy Graham Stadium. Kickoff on Saturday, Nov. 23 is set for 1 p.m.

Saturday will serve as Military Appreciation Day at Graham Stadium, as all current and former military personnel along with their families will receive free admission to the game. World War II veterans are scheduled to take part in the pregame coin toss in conjunction with the event. The game will also serve as Senior Day for UT Martin, who will see 18 seniors play their final regular season game at home.

UT Martin will look to make a strong statement for a playoff berth with a victory over the No. 2 Panthers, who clinched the OVC regular season championship last week. The Skyhawks have already chalked up wins over No. 24 Chattanooga and No. 7 Central Arkansas while boasting a school record five road victories, with their only road losses coming to Football Bowl Subdivision schools Boise State and Memphis.

Eastern Illinois leads the all-time series by a 12-6 margin but the Skyhawks have emerged victorious in three games in a row in the series. UT Martin has won five straight games against the Panthers at Hardy Graham Stadium, having not lost at home to Eastern Illinois since 2001. Last season at Hardy Graham Stadium, the Skyhawks handed Eastern Illinois its lone OVC loss of the season – a 51-37 decision on Oct. 6. UT Martin did not trail at any point of that game and led by as many as 25 points midway through the third quarter.

This game features a clash between the high-powered Eastern Illinois offense and the stingy UT Martin defense. The Panthers lead the nation in scoring offense (46.8 points per game) and total offense (589.5 yards per game), having scored at least 34 points in every game in 2013. Meanwhile, the Skyhawks have held five of their seven OVC opponents to 17 points or less and rank sixth nationally in third down conversion defense (30.8 percent).

UT Martin (7-4, 5-2 OVC) accounted for a first in school history last week with its 16-7 victory at Eastern Kentucky, marking the first victory for the program in Richmond in 12 tries dating back to 1973. The Skyhawks tallied a 13-0 halftime lead and never looked back, holding an opponent to a touchdown or less in the first half for the seventh time this season. DJ McNeil was responsible for his 21st career rushing touchdown, moving up to third place all-time on the UT Martin career list. Jackson Redditt split the uprights on three occasions, including a career-long 51-yarder in the first quarter and a clutch 45-yarder in the fourth quarter to give the Skyhawks a two-possession lead.

Eastern Illinois (10-1, 7-0 OVC) is coming off a 52-14 home victory over No. 22 Jacksonville State. The Panthers jumped out to a 35-0 lead after the first quarter and cruised from there, thanks to 245 rushing yards and four touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving, one passing) out of Shepard Little. Jimmy Garappolo, who leads the nation with 42 passing touchdowns and 4,012 passing yards, threw for 169 yards while Erik Lora, the nation’s leader in touchdown receptions (17), receiving yards (1,339) and receptions per game (9.3), hauled in a game-high 93 yards on five catches. The Panther defense also stood out, limiting the Gamecocks to just 253 yards of total offense.

The game can be viewed live on ESPN3 at the link above. Locally, fans can tune into WCMT 101.3 FM to hear Tom Britt (play-by-play), Chris Brinkley (color) and John Abel (sidelines) call all the action or tune into WUTM 90.3 FM’s online audio stream by accessing the link at the top of the webpage. Live stats will be available for the game by clicking on the link above.