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Our OVC dream matchup turned into a nightmare for Eastern Kentucky, Murray State and Jacksonville State are becoming a OVC football rivalry, and the lack of respect for UT Martin is borderline comical at this point.

Here’s what we learned in Week 5.

1) OUR CONCERNS ABOUT EASTERN KENTUCKY WERE WARRANTED

Through four weeks of the year, Eastern Kentucky hasn’t looked like a potential FCS playoff team. This week didn’t help. Don’t get me wrong, Eastern Illinois is going to thump just about anyone, especially in Charleston. But this game was not remotely competitive. Jimmy Garoppolo carved up the EKU secondary, and the Colonels managed just 266 yards of total offense.

Right now, I don’t think EKU is the second best team in the OVC, or even the third.

 

2) JACKSONVILLE STATE IS (MOSTLY) WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

For a 4-0 team, no one was really sold on the Gamecocks. This week, we saw why. Jacksonville State put up 652 yards of offense against the porous Murray State defense, but lose at home thanks in part to three interceptions from Max Shortell, and a gutsy overtime call by Racers head coach Chris Hatcher. Running up and down the field against Murray State isn’t exactly unique this season, (or any season in the recent past) and the Racers are almost certainly destined to finish mid-pack in the OVC. After this loss, I’m fairly certain JSU finishes there as well.

2A) YES, I KNOW IT WAS A LOSS IN OVERTIME

That’s not the problem. It never should have gotten that far. Two fourth-quarter interceptions, including one that led to the game-tying field goal, is the problem.

2B) AND I HAVEN’T EVEN MENTIONED YOUR ABYSMAL SPECIAL TEAMS YET

Murray State’s average starting field position? Their 38-yard line. And going back to the fourth quarter, all four Murray State possessions began inside the JSU 40. That’s not how you close out a football game.

2C) DONE?

Yes. I’m not saying the Gamecocks are bad. Just that they’re average.

 

3) EASTERN ILLINOIS IS (EXACTLY) WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE

Anything short of an OVC sweep is a disappointing finish at this point. Right now, they’re on pace to earn a top-8 seed in the FCS tournament, and more importantly, a bye into the second round. They’re unquestionably the best team in the conference, and if they had a kicker, they could be one of the best in the nation.

 

4) SPEAKING OF KICKERS, THE OVC NEEDS MEN’S SOCCER…

If for no other reason that they can raid the teams for kickers. Eastern Illinois missed both field goal attempts Saturday, and can barely send kickoffs inside the 20. Southeast Missouri’s kicker missed from 47-yards on Saturday…by 10 yards. Seriously, the ball bounced at the front of the end zone, and wasn’t touched at the line. Is there no one on either campus that can kick a football? Have we thought about holding open auditions?

I’m serious. Set up a ball at the 30. Let random kids kick it. First one to make it: congrats, here’s a scholarship.

 

5) UT MARTIN IS A FCS FOOTBALL SCHOOL IN MARTIN, TENNESSEE.

They play in the Ohio Valley Conference, and have for more than a decade. Their nickname is the Skyhawks.

Why am I going over this? Because apparently the football media at large needs to be informed. Despite two top-25 wins in the first three weeks of the season, the Skyhawks have been left off the FCS coaches poll two straight weeks. This week, they were left out of the Sports Network mock FCS playoff bracket, but Tennessee State, who has beaten no one of note, wasn’t.

We’re five weeks into the season. Five. How many teams have win over two FCS top-25 schools? This is a serious question. I know the answer isn’t 26.

In addition, UT Martin’s only loss isn’t a bad loss; it was to FBS Boise State.

I’m not saying that TSN is necessarily wrong in their prediction. They might not be. But can the Skyhawks get just a little recognition for what they’ve done? They deserve that.

 

6) THAT BEING SAID, UT MARTIN DIDN’T LOOK SPECTACULAR ON SATURDAY

A win is a win, but a 10-point win over SEMO isn’t going to help their cause. The offense, which has been solid through their first three games, failed to impress, tallying just 356 total yards. There is some good news here: quarterback Dylan Favre, who has been a bit turnover prone, didn’t throw an interception or fumble the football. The defense kept the Redhawks scoreless into the fourth quarter.

SEMO controlled time of possession in the second half, which is what the Redhawks do well. UT Martin had the ball for less than 10 minutes in the third and fourth quarters, one reason they were held scoreless after the break.

6A) BY THE WAY, CAN WE CALL FAVRE THE STARTER NOW?

UT Martin threw 17 passes against SEMO. Favre threw 16. Jarod Neal threw the seventeenth, an interception.

 

7) TENNESSEE TECH EARNED A GOOD WIN, BUT IT’S A BAD SIGN FOR THE FUTURE

Because they shouldn’t have won. In fact, if not for the atrocious Indiana State kicking game (noticing a theme this week?) they wouldn’t have.

The Sycamores had an extra point blocked, had a field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown, and missed a 44-yard field goal in the first, and a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. TTU should get some credit for the blocks, but a lot of it falls on ISU.

There were other bad signs as well. Being outgained 554-264, for instance. Averaging just 3.7 yards a play on offense. It’s really impressive that the Golden Eagles put up 38 points.

Their defense was much more solid with their backs against the wall, holding the Sycamores to two red zone field goals on top of their two misses.

 

8) WHAT WAS TENNESSEE STATE DOING PLAYING CENTRAL STATE IN MISSOURI?

As much as I don’t like it, if you want to play a Division II team, fine. It’s your season. But the entire point of playing these games is supposed to be to get another home game, not a neutral site game five hours from home.

 

9) MURRAY STATE’S DEFENSE IS REALLY, REALLY NOT GOOD

I mentioned this during my Jacksonville State rant earlier, but the Racers defense is bad. They’re eighth in the OVC in scoring defense (with only Austin Peay, who has played three FBS opponents in their four games, trailing) and last in total defense by far. Murray State is giving up over 574 yards a game. Second worst? The Governors again, allowing 448. They may need 40-points a game to get wins this year.

 

10) AUSTIN PEAY IS IN 5TH PLACE IN THE CONFERENCE

By being the last team to play their OVC opener, the Governors fall in between the 1-0’s and the 0-1’s. Write down this date, Austin Peay fans. It likely won’t be this way after you head to Eastern Kentucky on Saturday.


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  1. Gary Lewis:
    Not sure you can call JSU's special teams "abysmal" because of Murray's field position, especially in the 4th quarter. Murray's 4Q possessions began with a punt from the 5-yard line and two INTs. How is that the fault of special teams? JSU punter Hamish MacInnes averaged 37.7 yards on 3 punts. Not spectacular, but certainly not abysmal. Only one of those punts was returned -- for 2 yards. Kickoffs could've been better, as Griffin Thomas only averaged 59.8 on 5 kicks, with no touchbacks, but again, not abysmal. One of his two missed FGs was a 46-yard attempt into the wind. As for kickoff coverage, take away the one great effort by Murray's Duane Brady that resulted in a 43-yard return, and JSU held them to an average of just over 17 yards per return. Again, nowhere near abysmal. JSU's returners averaged a respectable 18.3 per kick return, but couldn't get anything going on punt returns because Murray didn't give them anything to return. That speaks more for Steven Mix's solid punting than for anything "abysmal" on JSU's part. What WAS abysmal for JSU was their ability to protect the ball and convert yardage into points. No defense for that.
    • ovcball:
      Your argument here is essentially "special teams weren't good, but not abysmal." Want to pick apart my language, fine. But I think we agree, special teams weren't special. How about the two missed field goals? (Which I didn't even mention) As you mentioned, zero touchbacks. And how about JSU's kickoff returns? 18.8 yards a return means nothing; Four times JSU returned kicks and didn't make it to the 25. Three didn't make it to the 20. The other two? They made it to the 26. Again, to compare: Murray State's starting field position was their own 38. Not fully special teams fault? No. But they were responsible for some of those possessions. By comparison, Jacksonville State's starting field position? Their own 21, again because their special teams did next to nothing on returns. Maybe abysmal is too strong a word...but I think you're defending a unit that didn't play well.
      • Gary Lewis:
        I wouldn't call it picking apart your language when you used the word "abysmal" (meaning extremely bad or appalling) when you apparently meant "mediocre" (meaning middle-of-the-road or not all that great). Abysmal special teams would be shanked punts, fumbled returns, etc., that destroy a team's momentum and turn the tide of the game. There was none of that Saturday. If there's a valid knock on JSU's special teams, it's that they were reasonably solid (except for the missed FGs) when they needed to be spectacular. This loss is squarely on the shoulders of the Gamecock offense, which, other than the running of DaMarcus James, DID play abysmally: three INTs, a fumble at the 1-yard line right before halftime, a dropped pass that would've gone for 6, and the inability to move the chains at several key moments. That last one was huge, both keeping the Murray offense on the field (never a good idea) and preventing JSU from overcoming bad starting field position. On average, Murray punted from its own 38-yard line. JSU punted from its 23. That puts both our punter and our returners at a huge disadvantage. Unless you have a punter averaging 60+ yards per attempt, the only way to flip the field from that position is to have an efficient offense. The Gamecocks didn't have that Saturday, and honestly, haven't had it all season.
OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11


2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall

EAST

Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19

WEST

UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24


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