The No. 18 ranked University of Tennessee at Martin football team will look to build upon its early season success with a road matchup at Ohio Valley Conference foe Austin Peay on Saturday, Sept. 30. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. from Fortera Stadium and can be seen on the OVC Digital Network.
Saturday’s game marks the second of the three games in the coveted Sergeant York Trophy series which goes to the winner of the quadrangular season football series between the four Ohio Valley Conference football-playing schools located in the state of Tennessee – Austin Peay, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech and UT Martin. UT Martin has won and retained the Sgt. York Trophy for three consecutive years while holding a 22-9 all-time record in the series – the best mark among the four schools. Additionally, the Skyhawks are 15-2 against in-state foes since 2013.
The Skyhawks (3-1, 1-0 OVC) enter the contest off to the program’s best start to a season since 2013 after winning two games in a row while sitting ranked 18th nationally in the STATS FCS Poll and 21st in the FCS Coaches Poll following a thrilling 31-16 home victory over No. 20 ranked Tennessee State their last time out. With the victory, the Skyhawks accomplished a program first by notching wins over ranked opponents in consecutive weeks – joining a 21-7 road victory at No. 15 Chattanooga two weeks ago. As a team, the Skyhawks currently leads the OVC in scoring defense (17.0 ppg), rushing defense (63.2 ypg), opponent third down conversion percentage (27.1), opponent fourth down conversion percentage (14.3), time of possession (34:19), redzone defense percentage (54.5), turnover margin (+3) and sacks (nine).
Junior running back Ladarius Galloway was one of several standouts in UT Martin’s victory over No. 20 Tennessee State. Galloway tallied a career-high with 25 carries while notching 90 yards and two touchdowns in the contest to earn adidas OVC Co-Offensive Player and Newcomer of the Week honors for the second time this season. Defensive standouts Tae Martin - career-high 13 tackles - and James Gilleylen - seven tackles, two quarterback hurries, forced fumble and fumble recovery – paced yet another solid defensive effort. Meanwhile TJ Jefferson blocked a punt which was recovered in the endzone by Devonte Howard for the team’s first blocked punt returned for a touchdown since 2010.
Saturday’s contest pairs two coaches at the opposite end of the tenure spectrum in UT Martin’s Jason Simpson and Austin Peay’s Will Healy. Simpson ranks as the league’s longest tenured head coach in his 12th season with an overall record of 75-55 (58-32 OVC) while ranking as the OVC’s seventh winningest coach in history. Meanwhile, Healy has keyed a turnaround for the upstart Governors with a career record of 2-13 in his second season.
Austin Peay (2-2, 1-0 OVC) is looking to build upon its recent momentum coming off consecutive victories for the first time since 2011. After snapping a 29-game losing streak a week before, the Governors made it two wins in a row at OVC arch rival Murray State, marking the first OVC win since 2014 (snapping a 21-game losing streak) and first road victory since Sept. 18, 2010 (snapping a 41-game losing streak). Against the Racers, Austin Peay would hold its opponent to just 88 yards of total offense en route to a 27-7 victory.
The Governors currently lead the OVC in scoring offense (30.0 ppg), total offense (410.8 ypg), total defense (241.5 ypg), rushing offense (289.5 ypg), pass defense (154.0 ypg) and first downs (83). Individually, the Govs have three players ranked in the top-10 in rushing yards per game with Kentel Williams (89.0 ypg), JaVaughn Craig (71.5 ypg) and Ahmaad Tanner (46.8 ypg) while combining for seven rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, junior linebacker Gunnar Scholato ranks sixth in the OVC with 33 tackles while notching 3.0 tackles for loss, an interception, a fumble recovery and a blocked kick.
This game marks the 66th matchup between the two in-state rivals with UT Martin holding a 38-25-2 series advantage. UT Martin enters the contest winning nine consecutive meetings against Austin Peay, including a 10-1 overall mark for the Skyhawks under the direction of Jason Simpson. The Skyhawks last loss against the Governors came on the road on Sept. 22, 2007.
The game will be streamed live, free of charge, courtesy of the OVC Digital Network at the link above. Fans can also tune into Mix 101.3 FM to hear Tom Britt (play-by-play), Chris Brinkley (color) and John Abel (sideline) provide analysis. WUTM, UT Martin’s award-winning student radio station, will also broadcast the game locally on 90.3 FM. Links for both radio broadcasts, along with live stats can be accessed through their respective links above. For in-game updates, follow the Skyhawks on twitter @UTM_Gameday.