MARTIN, Tenn. - A pair of matchups at Southeastern Conference schools and five home games in the span of seven weeks highlight the 2014 University of Tennessee at Martin football schedule, which was released this afternoon.
"It's another challenging slate with two SEC teams and facing another ranked Football Championship Subdivision team on the road in Central Arkansas," said Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson, who enters his ninth year at the helm of the UT Martin football program in 2014. "I'd have to say it is one of the most challenging schedules we have had since I've been here."
The 12-game schedule will open with an Aug. 30 kickoff at Kentucky, the first of two games against Football Bowl Subdivision schools on the Skyhawks' 2014 slate. This marks UT Martin's first matchup against the Wildcats on the gridiron and the fourth different SEC opponent the Skyhawks will have faced since 2008. This game will also be televised nationally on the new SEC Network, which is operated by ESPN and is scheduled to launch on Aug. 14.
One week later, UT Martin travels to Conway, Ark. for the first time since 2007 for a return game against the Central Arkansas Bears out of the Southland Conference. Last season, the Skyhawks defeated Central Arkansas, then ranked No. 7 in the FCS polls, by a 24-23 margin at Hardy Graham Stadium.
UT Martin's home opener is set for Thursday, Sept. 11 against in-state NAIA opponent Cumberland. This game will mark the fourth game in the all-time series between the Skyhawks and Bulldogs and first meeting since 1948.
The Skyhawks will then open Ohio Valley Conference play against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 20 at Graham Stadium. UT Martin claimed the upper hand over the Colonels last year, chalking up a 16-7 victory in Richmond.
A three-game homestand will conclude on Sept. 27 when the Skyhawks host OVC rival Southeast Missouri. UT Martin has defeated the Redhawks in eight of the last nine meetings since 2005 - including a perfect 4-0 mark in games played at Graham Stadium.
UT Martin will then open its October slate with a road contest at Jacksonville State, visiting Burgess-Snow Field for the first time since the 2011 season-opener.
The Skyhawks then face their three OVC opponents in the annual Sgt. York Trophy series in consecutive weeks, beginning with a Thursday night matchup against Tennessee Tech at home on Oct. 9. UT Martin then goes to Tennessee State on Oct. 18 before taking on Austin Peay for Homecoming on Oct. 25. The Skyhawks have won six of their last nine Homecoming contests and are undefeated when playing Austin Peay on Homecoming (winning 34-28 in 1991 and 61-23 in 2011).
Three road games and a bye week then wrap up UT Martin's regular season. The Skyhawks make the short trip to Murray State on Nov. 1, as they have won eight of the last nine over the Racers. One week later, the Skyhawks will step out of conference play to take on SEC rival Mississippi State for the second time in the last four seasons.
A bye week follows before the regular season finale at Eastern Illinois, the defending OVC champions. UT Martin last visited Charleston, Ill. in Week 8 of the 2011 campaign, notching the first victory in program history at O'Brien Field with a 24-23 triumph.
The opening round of the FCS playoffs are slated to begin on Nov. 29.