Football Gameday Central
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The No. 25 ranked University of Tennessee at Martin football program will look to cap off Homecoming festivities with a matchup against Ohio Valley Conference regional rival Murray State on Saturday, Oct. 7. Kickoff from Hardy M. Graham Stadium is scheduled to get underway at 2 p.m.
Saturday’s contest will serve as the program’s 65th annual Homecoming game with UT Martin holding a 36-28 overall mark in said matchups. This will mark just the second time the Skyhawks and Racers have ever squared off on Homecoming with the previous meeting coming in 2000 as Murray State escaped Graham Stadium with a 48-3 victory.
The Skyhawks (3-2, 1-1 OVC) enter the contest looking to rebound after a disappointing setback their last time out after being shutout for the first time in an OVC contest since 2004 with a 7-0 loss at Austin Peay. Despite dropping the contest, UT Martin would hold the league’s top scoring offense and total offense to a season low with just seven points and 261 yards of offense. As a result of the contest, the Skyhawks dropped out of the FCS Coaches Poll while falling seven spots to No. 25 in the STATS FCS Poll.
UT Martin ranks amongst the nation’s leaders in several categories including third in redzone defense (53.8), sixth in punt return defense (0.67), ninth in third down conversion defense (27.9), ninth in fourth down conversion defense (14.3), ninth in scoring defense (15.0) and ninth in time of possession (34:01). Meanwhile the Skyhawks also rank 12th in total defense (271.8 ypg) and 16th in rushing defense (91.8 ypg). Individually junior running back Ladarius Galloway ranks second nationally in rushing yards (583), seventh in rushing yards per game (116.6), 17th in all-purpose yards (141.2) and 26th in rushing touchdowns (four).
The game will feature a head coaching matchup of UT Martin’s Jason Simpson and Murray State’s Mitch Stewart. Simpson is looking to move into a tie for seventh on the OVC’s conference-only wins leaderboard with his next victory after entering the contest with a 58-32 league mark in 12 seasons while posting a 75-56 career record. Meanwhile, Stewart is in his third season at the helm of the Racers notching an 8-19 mark.
Murray State (1-4, 0-1 OVC) is looking to snap a four-game losing streak which saw the Racers go winless in the month of September. The Racers will also try to end a stretch which has seen the squad be held to fewer than 100 yards of total offense in consecutive outings against Austin Peay and FBS foe Louisville. Despite the slow start, the Racers ranked fifth in the nation in defensive touchdowns (two), eighth in passes intercepted (eight), 13th in redzone offense (91.7 percent) and 16th in fewest penalties per game (4.8).
Running back DJ Penick leads the Racers rushing attack with 157 yards while Penick and the duo of Nick Collins and Nolan Nichols have each tallied rushing touchdowns. The quarterback tandem of Shuler Bentley and Corey Newble have combined to complete 103-of-165 passes for 752 yards and nine touchdowns while tallying two interceptions each. Jordon Gandy leads the receiving core with 22 catches for 277 yards and four touchdowns. Defensively, Marico Paige paces the squad with 35 tackles while D’Montre Wade has tallied three of a league-best eight interceptions.
Rivals located just 50 miles apart will meet for the 57th time on the gridiron on Saturday with Murray State holding a 35-20-1 series advantage. Despite the lopsided results, UT Martin has certainly held its own in recent history as the Skyhawks have won six consecutive matchups and 11 of the last 12 meetings. The Skyhawks have also average 51.8 points per game against the Racers during its six-game winning streak.
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.