YouTube: Jason Simpson Postgame Press Conference
MARTIN, Tenn. – While heavy and persistent rain fell from the sky throughout the day, the University of Tennessee at Martin football team posted a strong showing in its season opener, notching the program’s first shutout victory since 2011 with a 36-0 win over Division-II foe Clarion University on Thursday evening at Hardy M. Graham Stadium.
The Skyhawks (1-0) picked up their first win of the season behind 457 yards of total offense while holding their opponent to just 146 yards. The shutout victory marked the first for the Skyhawks since defeating Union College on Sept. 15, 2011 by a final score of 63-0. The game also moved the Skyhawks to 11-1 in home openers and 10-0 against non-Division-I teams during the Jason Simpson era.
With individual statistics subdued with less than ideal playing conditions, the offense was led by senior quarterback Troy Cook who completed 13-of-28 passes for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While Cook headlined the offense going into the season opener, junior newcomer Ladarius Galloway stole the show for the offensive unit with 17 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown. The junior college product averaged 9.2 yards per carry while also tallying three catches for 41 yards.
A total of five different players scored touchdowns for the Skyhawks. Galloway tallied a 29-yard scamper for a touchdown while Ty Brown (13 carries, 42 yards) and Deashun Fields (two carries, 15 yards) each notched scores on the ground. In the passing game, it was sophomore Jaylon Moore who tallied a pair of receptions and a team-high 49 yards receiving while hauling in a 37-yard touchdown strike. Senior receiver Londell Lee also caught a touchdown pass for three yards.
While the offense put the only points on the board, it was UT Martin’s stingy defense which held the opponent out of the endzone. After ranking as one of the best defenses in the nation a year ago, the Skyhawks looked to their darkside to seal the victory. The Skyhawks allowed just nine first downs on the day while limiting the Golden Eagles to just 146 yards of total offense and forcing three turnovers.
UT Martin’s defense would especially flex its muscles in the third quarter, forcing turnovers on three consecutive drives. The Skyhawks would look to get a stop on fourth down when a botched snap resulted in a recovered fumble by Garrett Wall to squash a rally attempt. On the following drive it would be Chris Williams-Hall who tallied an acrobatic interception off a tipped ball by Kevin Prather, Jr. while Tae Martin later notched the third interception of his career to stall yet another Clarion drive as the offense sandwiched 10 points off said turnovers.
The defense would be led statistically by Prather who paced the squad with eight tackles, including three tackles for loss totaling seven yards, while recording a pair of quarterback hurries and two pass breakups. Fellow linebacker James Gilleylen also posted a big night, tallying seven tackles – including three tackles for loss and one sacks. Senior safety Joseph Este joined in the action with five tackles out of the secondary while notching a pair of tackles for loss and five pass breakups.
“Well first of all, I’m proud of our defense,” said Simpson. “Anytime you get a shutout, I don’t care who you are playing, it’s something to hang your hat on. I’m proud of Coach (Jordon) Hankins in his first game as defensive coordinator. When you look at the numbers and you hold them to 0-for-13 on third down and 0-for-3 on fourth down, that speaks for itself. Statistically on offense, it was an ugly game but there were some bright spots and were able to put some points on the board towards the end. It doesn’t get any easier going into next week, but we got the win under our belt and we will move on.”
UT Martin will return to action on Saturday, Sept. 9 when traveling to Southeastern Conference opponent Ole Miss. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m.