Postgame Press Conference
MARTIN, Tenn. – Stingy defense and a blocked field goal attempt by the University of Tennessee at Martin football team would give the squad a chance to string together a potential game-tying drive with just over 90 seconds to play against No. 2 ranked Jacksonville State on Saturday afternoon before ultimately falling 14-7.
The Skyhawks (5-5, 3-4 OVC) battled the No. 2 ranked Gamecocks from the opening kickoff in a matchup of two elite defensive units. With the game anticipated to feature a low score, the contest would stay to script as the fourth and eighth ranked defenses in the country limited both opponents to just 21 combined points and less than 300 yards of total offense individually.
With the win, Jacksonville State notched its Ohio Valley Conference record 31st consecutive victory and fourth straight OVC regular season title.
UT Martin’s defense would limit Jacksonville State - a team which entered the game averaging 32.1 points per game – to just 14 points. Sophomore safety Brandon Anderson paced the Skyhawks with a career-high 12 tackles while the quartet of Joseph Este, Kevin Prather, Jr., James Gilleylen and Julian Crutchfield each tossed in nine tackles each. Joining the action for a big day was junior Mike Turner who tallied three tackles but blocked a critical field goal attempt in the fourth quarter for the second consecutive week.
Freshman quarterback Dresser Winn earned the start, completing 13-of-23 attempts for 128 yards and a touchdown. Winn would connect with top receiver Devonte Howard three times for 37 yards and one touchdown. Freshman tailback Peyton Logan would lead the rushing attack with four carries for 49 yards.
“That was a tough one,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “We talked about it all week that we wanted to get it to the fourth quarter to get one stop or one score to win, because that’s how you have to beat a team like that. We had a good game plan, we just messed up some opportunities with execution. Our defense has been fantastic all year and they kept us in the game. We will load up next week, try to get our sixth win and finish with a winning season.”
Jacksonville State would be the first to get on the board in the opening quarter of play. The Gamecocks would string together an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive on the team’s second possession of the contest. Dual-threat quarterback Bryant Horn moved the Gamecocks down the field with 47 rushing yards of his own, positioning his squad just inside the redzone. Needing just a few yards to go, Roc Thomas went to work with four consecutive rush attempts before finding the endzone on a one-yard carry with 3:21 on the clock.
The Gamecocks would add to their margin right before the half. A short punt by the Skyhawks gave JSU prime field position as the team started its drive on the UTM 40. With less than half a field length to go, Horn found Trae Barry for a 22-yard completion to set up Thomas for a 14-yard scamper and give the squad a two-touchdown advantage heading into the break.
UT Martin would string to together its best offensive drive in the final minutes of the third quarter. With starting field position pinned down on the team’s own six-yard line, the Skyhawks saw freshman tailback Logan explode for a 51-yard rush down the left sideline to flip the field. With the Skyhawks at midfield, Winn would look to the air with a 16-yard completion to Londell Lee before finding Howard for a 32-yard touchdown down the right side.
With the game at a one-score margin, the Skyhawks felt in control of their own destiny. With the offense struggled to put together a scoring drive, Jacksonville State used its ensuing drive to milk the clock and attempt a field goal attempt to make it a two-score contest. The Gamecocks would successfully run seven minutes off the game clock before setting up for a 18-yard attempt which Turner would block to keep the score at a seven-point margin and give the Skyhawks the ball back.
Needing one big drive to potentially tie the game, UT Martin went to work on the team’s own 39. Winn would drop back for a pair of pass attempts which would fall incomplete before scrambling to his right and dropping the ball for a critical fumble which was recovered by the Gamecocks with 69 seconds to play, sealing the team’s 14-7 victory.
UT Martin will look to close out the season on a high note on Saturday, Nov. 18 with the season finale at Tennessee Tech. Kickoff from Tucker Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m.