MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin football team hopes that 2017 is a season of breakthrough for the program as it looks to not only clinch a berth into the FCS Championship but an Ohio Valley Conference championship.
While the route to a playoff berth is winding, the Skyhawks hope matchups against a FBS foe, a pair of perennial FCS playoff contenders and yet another stout league slate will prepare the squad to breakthrough to the top of the OVC standings.
“When you go back the past five years we haven’t finished lower than third in the conference based off record,” said UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson. “We know we have been consistent for 11 years. We talk around here every year that we want to compete for a playoff berth and a conference title, yet we just haven’t been able to get over the hump. While we have been consistent, we look for this to be the year that we breakthrough and accomplish those goals. We need to be able to be mature enough to not only talk about it in our building and offices, but to make the fans aware of the expectations we put on ourselves.”
“When we look to the rallying cry of ‘breakthrough’, it isn’t just about our overall teams goals,” Simpson continued. “We look throughout our programs and we are looking for breakthroughs in many areas. Whether it is All-OVC guys elevating to All-Americans, role players becoming starters or even walk-ons trying to make the bus for our first road trip. We want to create individual goals which our players can breakthrough that ceiling by elevating their individual game which in turn strengthens our team as a whole.”
UT Martin will officially open the 2017 season with a non-conference matchup against Division II foe Clarion University on Thursday, Aug. 31. The game also serves as the Friends and Family TribUTe Picnic with University of Tennessee President Dr. Joe DePietro with attendees encouraged to wear orange. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.
With a few extra days to prepare, the Skyhawks with travel to Southeastern Conference foe Ole Miss with a matchup on Saturday, Sept. 9. The contest will serve as the second matchup between the two foes in series history with Ole Miss picking up a victory in 2015. A scheduled time for kickoff has not been announced.
The Skyhawks will then wrap up their non-conference schedule with a matchup at in-state foe and fellow UT system member Chattanooga on Saturday, Sept. 16. It will mark the fifth meeting between the two programs and first since 2013 when the Skyhawks picked up a 31-21 road victory over the then No. 24 ranked Mocs. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.
UT Martin will return home after a two-game road swing with a matchup against in-state rival Tennessee State on Saturday, Sept. 23. The contest not only serves as the 27th meeting in series history but also the opener of the Sgt. York Trophy series. The Skyhawks will also host UT Martin Family Weekend with attendees encouraged to wear blue. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The Skyhawks will close out the month of September with a matchup at Austin Peay on Saturday, Sept. 30. The game will mark the team’s 66th meeting against the Governors while possessing an eight-game winning streak. A scheduled time for kickoff has not been announced.
UT Martin will cap off its annual Homecoming week of festivities on Saturday, Oct. 7 against regional rival Murray State. The contest will mark the 56th meeting between the two programs while the Skyhawks enter the matchup as winners of 10 of the last 11 meetings against the Racers. Fans can enjoy Homecoming festivities themed “Captain of the Caribbean” with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m.
Following a bye week, the squad will hit the road again, leaving the state of Tennessee for the first time in well over a month with a matchup against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, Oct. 21. UT Martin has won the last two road matchups against the Colonels. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
The Skyhawks will return home to play Eastern Illinois on Saturday, Oct. 28. UT Martin will look to continue a string of games where they have won six of the last eight matchups against the Panthers. The Skyhawks will host Who’s Your Superhero? Day with attendees encouraged to wear their best superhero costumes. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.
The squad will cap off the month of November with a road contest at Southeast Missouri on Saturday, Nov. 4. UT Martin is looking to continue a string of success against the Redhawks after winning 11 of the last 13 meetings. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Having already been tabbed one of the top FCS games in the country to watch this season by STATS FCS, UT Martin will close out the home portion of the scheduled against two-time defending OVC champion and preseason ranked Jacksonville State on Saturday, Nov. 11. The Skyhawks will look to give the Gamecocks their first OVC loss since the 2013 season. The contest will also serve as Military Appreciation Day where the Skyhawks honor our nation’s heroes with a Veteran’s Day parade. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. with fans encouraged to wear red, white and blue.
UT Martin will close out the regular season with a matchup at in-state foe Tennessee Tech on Saturday, Nov. 18. The game will mark the 39th meeting between the two programs while the Skyhawks will look to pick up their fourth consecutive victory in the series while clinching the squad’s fourth straight Sgt. York Trophy. A scheduled time for kickoff has not been announced.
“Without a doubt, we are looking at a tough schedule ahead of ourselves,” said Simpson. “With that being said, we feel confident that we can use every week to consistently get better and breakthrough into the FCS playoffs and a conference championship. Whether it is opening our season at home, attempting to wash out a bad taste in our mouth from our last trip to Ole Miss, looking to knock off a top-10 FCS program like Chattanooga or facing off against an OVC foe, we need to breakthrough as a program to reach our ultimate goals.”
All game times are listed in central standard timing and subject to change.