CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team forced four turnovers and rolled up 384 yards of total offense in a 31-6 victory in its Ohio Valley Conference opener over Austin Peay tonight at Governors Stadium. The Skyhawks are now 3-1 on the season.
With the six points allowed by the UT Martin defense tonight, it marks the first time in six years that the Skyhawks have conceded single-digit points in back-to-back game. UT Martin – who allowed only six points to Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 13 – allowed six points at Samford on Oct. 21, 2006 and nine points to Eastern Illinois on Oct. 28, 2006.
Ben Johnson led the Skyhawk defense with 11 tackles (five solo). Fred Flenorl made seven stops and also tallied an interception and fumble recovery for a touchdown. Aaron Simms and Julius McNair also came away with interceptions to lead UT Martin.
Derek Carr went 21-for-33 for 266 yards and a pair of touchdowns for the Skyhawks tonight. Jeremy Butler (game-high 90 yards receiving) and Quentin Sims (86 yards on seven catches) hauled in touchdown passes, while Tevin Barksdale gained 59 yards on 10 carries to lead UT Martin offensively.
For Austin Peay (0-4, 0-2 OVC), Wesley Kitts had 118 yards rushing on 23 carries. Jake Ryan (9-for-23 passing, 99 yards) and Devin Stark (five receptions, 64 yards) also picked up team-highs for the Governors tonight.
After the Skyhawks were forced to punt on their opening possession, Austin Peay drove 56 yards in its opening drive before Stephen Stansell missed a 30-yard field goal to keep the game scoreless.
UT Martin capitalized on its opportunity, driving 10 plays for 80 yards in 3:37. On 3rd-and-10, Carr hit Butler up the middle for a 21-yard touchdown pass to make the score 7-0 at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter. Three plays went for double-figures on the drive, including a pair of 21-yard passes from Carr to Butler.
The Skyhawk defense held Austin Peay on its ensuing possession, forcing another punt. Carr was successful on four straight passes, driving into Governor territory before a tipped pass was intercepted by Austin Peay with 36 seconds remaining in the opening quarter. However, UT Martin’s defense held once again and forced the Governors to punt.
Both squads traded punts to begin the second quarter before the Skyhawks used some more third down magic to go ahead by two scores. UT Martin converted on all three third-down plays on the drive – including a 24-yard strike from Carr to Sims in the left corner of the end zone. Sims’ 13th career touchdown reception capped off a 10-play, 65-yard drive that lasted 3:31.
UT Martin’s defense stuffed the Governors for four yards in four plays on their next drive, setting up the Skyhawks’ next score. Receiving the ball at the Austin Peay 44-yard line, Carr fired a 44-yard play-action pass to a streaking Kevin Barfield on the left side of the field. Two plays later, DJ McNeil barreled in the end zone from one yard out to give UT Martin a 21-0 advantage after a Cody Sandlin PAT split the uprights.
Austin Peay got on the scoreboard just before the half, as Stansell booted a 35-yard field goal with just nine seconds remaining in the second quarter to make the score 21-3.
The Governors had to settle for a field goal in their first possession of the second half after the Skyhawk defense held on 3rd-and-2. Stansell’s attempt from 35 yards out was true to make the score 21-6 a little over six minutes into the third quarter.
After the Skyhawks received an 18-yard run by Barksdale and a 33-yard pass from Carr to Butler, UT Martin was just outside the red zone at the Austin Peay 23 on its opening possession. However, the Governors came away with an interception at the 2-yard line and took over possession at their own 25.
Just as they had done all game, the Skyhawk defense made a big play to create more points. UT Martin forced Austin Peay into a 3rd-and-25 situation and on the next play, redshirt freshman Aaron Simms came up with the first pick of his young career.
A little over 90 seconds after the interception, Sandlin converted a 32-yard field goal to extend the Skyhawk lead to 24-6 with 2:19 to go in the third quarter.
UT Martin’s defense posted a three-and-out and as a result, the Skyhawks threatened once again. However, the Governors recorded an interception on 4th-and-4 from their own 21.
The Skyhawk defense returned the favor just two plays later, as Flenorl picked off Jake Ryan to start UT Martin’s drive at the Austin Peay 22-yard line. The Skyhawks had the chance to pad their lead but a Sandlin field goal attempt from 25 yards out missed wide right.
Three minutes after his interception, Flenorl once again came up huge for the Skyhawks. On the second play of Austin Peay’s possession, freshman Deantae Glover had a strip sack for a 12-yard loss, leading to Flenorl scooping up the loose ball and taking the ball in untouched for an 11-yard touchdown fumble recovery. Jackson Redditt added the PAT to make the score 31-6 in UT Martin’s favor.
Julius McNair put the icing on the cake for the Skyhawk defense – making a diving interception to his left at the UT Martin 5-yard line with 2:21 remaining in the game. The Skyhawks – behind Trent Garland’s 45 yards on four carries – ran out the clock to seal their first OVC victory of the season.
The Skyhawks return home for a two straight games, beginning with an 11 a.m. OVC showdown against Eastern Kentucky on Sept. 29. The following Saturday (Oct. 6) will serve as UT Martin’s Homecoming, with the Skyhawks battling Eastern Illinois at 2 p.m.
Photo by Josh Wambles, The Pacer