CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – A 22-yard field goal by Mitch Mersman with one second remaining on the clock proved to be the difference as the University of Tennessee at Martin football team pulled out a 16-14 road victory at Ohio Valley Conference foe Southeast Missouri.
The Skyhawks (5-4, 3-3 OVC) received a big afternoon from their specialists with Mersman scoring over half of the team’s points with three field goals on the day. While he converted on a trio of attempts, none was bigger in his career than his final attempt from 22 yards out in the final moments.
UT Martin posted its best offensive output of the season statistically, tallying 420 yards of total offense – including 196 yards rushing and 224 yards through the air. The Skyhawks were led by freshman quarterback Dresser Winn in his third collegiate start, completing 12-of-23 passes for 224 yards and one touchdown. The dynamic playmaker flirted with 300 yards of total offense with 61 net rushing yards.
Pacing the team’s playmakers was Ladarius Galloway who tallied 66 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards to tally 148 all-purpose yards. Londell Lee, Sr. joined in the action by hauling in five receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Keying yet another strong defensive performance was junior Kevin Prather, Jr. with eight tackles – including six – while notching a tackle for loss. As a whole, the Skyhawks forced three turnovers as Brandon Anderson and Chase Joy notched forced fumbles while Porter Streator III and Donald Cofield, Jr. tallied fumble recoveries. Joseph Este joined in the action with seven tackles while notching his fourth career interception while Mike Turner blocked a critical field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
“To be able to hold that offense to 14 points without two key starters on defense, I am really proud of coach (Jordon) Hankins and our defensive staff,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “Then when you consider that we had 420 yards of total offense, we haven’t had that since the first game of the year and we did all of it with a freshman quarterback, which is exciting. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but I’m very proud of how are guys responded throughout the contest – especially with a big kick by Mitch at the end there.”
Things would look in doubt during the fourth quarter. A touchdown by Southeast Missouri on the first play of the fourth quarter would give the Redhawks a one-point advantage. The Skyhawks nearly took the game’s lead late in the game but a 35-yard field goal attempt would narrowly sail wide. Still trailing by one, UT Martin would need a big defensive stand with under three minutes on the clock to have another shot to win the contest. The defense provided just that, forcing a three-and-out to give the Skyhawks the ball back with 1:52 to play.
Looking for a little magic down the stretch, UT Martin saw Winn find Lee for a 25-yard completion to move the Skyhawks into enemy territory. Looking to keep the ball moving, a handoff to Galloway resulted in a 24-yard carry down to the SEMO five-yard line. With the clock stopped with five seconds to play, Mersman would boot a 22-yard field goal that split the uprights to seal the 16-14 victory.
UT Martin will return to action with a Senior Day contest against three-time defending OVC champion and No. 3 ranked Jacksonville State on Saturday, Nov. 11. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.