MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team concluded its ninth practice and first of three intersquad scrimmages this evening at Hardy Graham Stadium.
With much of the questions being focused around the brewing quarterback competition, it was the stringent Skyhawk defense which stole the show Saturday evening in front of numerous fans sprinkled throughout the stands.
“I’m very proud of our defense, the offense has been playing very well up to tonight, so it is good for a head coach to see the defense make some plays,” said UT Martin head football coach Jason Simpson. “In practices when everything is scripted out, the defense does not have the chance to see what a three-and-out feels like. Tonight they were able to see what that felt like and make plays count.”
The Skyhawk defense forced three turnovers while forcing a handful of fumbles which the offense quickly pounced on to retain possession. The defensive front line provided constant pressure on the offensive unit, getting into the backfield for five sacks while flushing the quarterback out of the pocket on several occasions.
All-Ohio Valley Conference preseason selections Ben Johnson and DJ Roberts each tallied one sack each while Roberts forced an early fumble which Ryan Isom recovered. Isom, Deilouse Jackson and Marquis Clemons each added a sack.
Senior J’Vontez Blackman forced the second turnover of the game when he intercepted an errant Jarod Neal pass in the endzone for a touchback. Clemons remained active late in the night with a fumble recovery of his own and the defense’s third takeaway of the evening.
“Our defense is fast and we’ve been calling that group Fast & Furious throughout camp and that’s the way we try to recruit because we aren’t the biggest defense but we are pretty fast.”
The Skyhawk offense tallied 376 yards of offense and two touchdowns on the evening. The quarterback trio of Jarod Neal, Tyler Rice and Dylan Favre split the bulk of the duties behind center. Favre went 9-for-14 with 74 passing yards and 32 rushing yards on four carries. Neal went 3-for-14 with 61 passing yards and an interception while Rice went 3-for-7 with four yards through the air.
The running back core was led by Trent Garland who ripped off a 43-yard carry for a touchdown en route to 48 yards on four carries. DJ McNeil led the team with eight carries while tallying 34 yards on the ground. Utah State transfer Abou Toure carried the ball six times for 30 yards.
The wide receiver duo of Dylan Davis and Caylon Weathers amassed nearly 200 yards combined. Davis led all receivers with five catches for 102 yards while Weathers made the most of his opportunities to wrangle three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
The Skyhawks will return to practice with a pair of practices on Monday and will cap off the week with their second of three scrimmages slated for next Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7:15 p.m. “This next week is going to huge for us as we try to shape this football team,” said Simpson.
This week’s tentative practice schedule:
Monday, Aug. 12: Practice 10, 9:15 a.m.
Practice 11, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 13: Practice 12, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 14: Practice 13, 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 15: Practice 14, 7:15 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 16: Practice 15, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 17: Practice 16 (Scrimmage), 7:15 p.m.