MARTIN, Tenn. – A year ago, in the first game of the season at Jacksonville State, The University of Tennessee at Martin football team, jumped out to a 23-17 lead over then No. 9 Jacksonville State. With 38 seconds left in the game, Calvin Middleton scored on a 4-yard run. Despite a last second effort the Skyhawks suffered a 24-23 setback and the ‘Go MAD (Make a Difference)’ motto for 2012 was born.
Fast forward to this afternoon at Hardy M. Graham Stadium and UT Martin jumped out to a 28-7 lead after the first quarter against Jacksonville State, but after three quarters the big lead disappeared and Jacksonville State trailed just 42-41. The difference was Thomas Griffin’s missed extra point with 13:58 to play in the game.
The Skyhawks claimed a 49-42 lead with 5:31 to play, but Jacksonville State scored with 41 seconds to play when Washaun Ealey scored on a 2-yard run. Quarterback Marques Ivory’s two-point conversion pass to the corner of the end zone failed and the Skyhawks earned a 49-47 victory and claimed the top spot in the Ohio Valley Conference standings with a 5-1 worksheet and a 7-2 overall record.
“This game was scripted just like last year’s,” UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson said. “This is where ‘Go MAD’ came from. We knew we had to do the little things and make a difference. I am proud of our players. They kept fighting.”
The Skyhawks took advantage of senior quarterback Derek Carr’s stellar performance. Carr completed 28-of-43 passes for 402 yards and seven touchdown passes. Five of those seven passes went to senior wide receiver Quentin Sims.
“We came out strong today. It was a blessed day,” Carr said. “We were playing fast and that helps me. “
Carr also acknowledged his offensive line and the play of Sims and junior wide receiver Jeremy Butler.
The two receivers accounted for 19 receptions for 238 yards and six of Carr’s seven touchdowns
“They (Sims and Butler) make it easy,” he said. “All I have to do is throw it up and they make the plays.”
Carr’s seven touchdown passes ties a school record for the most TD passes thrown in a single game.
The McKenzie native set the school record earlier this season against Murray State. Carr also became UT Martin’s career leader in total offense when he completed his first pass of the game, a 34-yard strike to Sims.
Sims, a Georgia Tech transfer from Cincinnati, also set a couple of records in the game. With his first TD reception of the game, Sims became UT Martin’s all-time leader in TD receptions (22). With his five touchdown receptions, Sims also tied a school record for most TDs in a game (five).
“We got the win because we did what we had to,” Sims said.
Sims had 10 catches for 137 yards. “The game plan wasn’t necessarily to the throw the ball to me, but when they call your number you have to make the play.”
Jacksonville State’s Alan Bonner also has a big day making plays. Bonner made 10 catches for235 yards and five touchdowns.
Bonner and Sims, along with Murray State’s Marcus Harris (2010) now share the OVC record for most TD passes in a single game (5).
Jax State quarterback Marques Ivory was 17-of-36 for 323 yards and six touchdowns.
“This game came down to the kicking game,” Simpson said. “Our defense didn’t play well, but we didn’t make any turnovers. If we had one turnover in this game, we lose.”
The Skyhawks return to action Nov. 10, when they play at Tennessee Tech, and then host Tennessee State in the season finale at 2 p.m., Nov. 17.
“We got another week,” Simpson said. “We control our own destiny.”