November 12, 2016

Postgame Press Conference

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team posted its fifth consecutive Ohio Valley Conference victory with a 24-10 win over Southeast Missouri on Senior Day. With the victory, the Skyhawks head into the final game of the regular season with a chance to win a conference crown and the league’s automatic playoff bid at No. 2 Jacksonville State.

The Skyhawks (7-4, 6-1 OVC) tallied their first unbeaten record at home since 1991 with the victory while marking just the 10th time in school history. The win also guaranteed yet another winning record, the team’s fourth over the past five season.   

UT Martin posted yet another strong defensive effort, holding Southeast Missouri to just 10 points and 331 yards of total offense. Defensive standout Kahlid Hagens notched a pair of interceptions in the contest while tallying 29 return yards. As a whole, the Skyhawks tallied three sacks led by senior Damani Taylor who tallied 1.5 individually. The defense stayed aggressive, notching seven tackles for loss while forcing three forced fumbles, 11 quarterback hurries and seven pass breakups.

Offensively the squad was led by quarterback Troy Cook who competed 17 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns. The junior receiver duo of Londell Lee (four receptions, 113 yards) and Caylon Weathers (five receptions, 56 yards) each tallied touchdown receptions in the contest. Sophomore running back Jaimiee Bowe led the ground attack with 73 yards and a touchdown.

“We’re a good football team,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “There is nothing flashy about us, but we can force you to commit turnovers. We have six wins in the conference and we are playing for a conference championship. I certainly believe that we are one of the top-24 teams in the nation. These guys have played 11 straight weeks and had to face three FBS teams. I am proud of how they have played all season and I look forward to playing for a championship next week.”

Southeast Missouri (3-7, 3-4 OVC) dropped its second consecutive contest after being held to a season-low 10 points in back-to-back weeks. Quarterback Jesse Hosket was limited to just 13-of-38 passes while tallying 203 yards, one rushing touchdown and two interceptions. Kristian Wilkerson paced the squad with four receptions for 131 yards.

Like for much of the season, UT Martin jumped on the board first in the opening quarter of play. With a drive beginning on the UTM 33, the Skyhawks would push the ball down the field, tallying four first downs before moving inside the redzone. After reaching as close as the SEMO 16, the drive would stall before Brett Arkelian put the Skyhawks on the board with a 33-yard field goal.

Southeast Missouri would answer back in the second quarter by taking a momentary lead. Following a short punt to set up prime field position, the Redhawks would march down the field following a 28-yard completion from Hosket to Wilkerson. Four consecutive rushes by Will Young would move the ball to the goal line before Hosket kept the ball himself and used a sneak off the snap to take a 7-3 lead.

Facing the team’s only deficit of the contest, UT Martin would immediately charge back on the ensuing drive. On the first play from scrimmage, Bowe would break loose for a 43-yard carry to flip the field. The Skyhawks then moved inside the redzone as Cook found a leaping Weathers for a 20-yard completion before reconnecting with his partner for a 14-yard touchdown strike – the duo’s fourth connection of the season.

The score would stay the same heading into the third quarter before the Skyhawks stretch their lead midway through the quarter. With starting field position near midfield, Cook would find senior Ben Axline for a 43-yard completion to move the Skyhawks inside the redzone. From there the Skyhawks would turn the ball over to Bowe which rambled 13-yards for his seventh touchdown of the season to stretch the lead to 17-7.

UT Martin would put a cap of its offensive output on the opening drive of the fourth quarter. After senior Ladevin Fair started the drive with a three-yard rush, Cook would look to the air to find a sprinting Lee for a 56-yard touchdown.

Southeast Missouri would look to make a move down the stretch, tallying a 20-yard field goal midway through the fourth to make it a 24-10 ballgame. After a long drive by the Skyhawks to milk the clock, the Redhawks would look down the field one last time but Hagens would tally his second interception of the game to eliminate the threat and seal the victory.

UT Martin will now turn its focus to defending national runner-up No. 2 Jacksonville State with a road matchup to decide the league championship on Saturday, Nov. 19. Kickoff from JSU Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.