Some teams get to ease into their season. Others are thrown into the fire. The Skyhawks chose the latter path this year.
After two weeks on the road, the Skyhawks come home for an early kickoff against Cumberland, as UT Martin seeks their first win of the season under the lights. The Skyhawks are coming off a heartbreaking loss to Central Arkansas, as a touchdown with 1:11 left sealed the victory for the Bears.
One major positive that came out of that game — UTM may have found their quarterback. Jarod Neal played the majority of snaps, hitting 20-18 passes and throwing for two touchdowns in the losing effort. Neal was also the team’s leading rusher, with 42 yards.
Abou Toure, who had a breakout performance against Kentucky two weeks ago, struggled against Central Arkansas.
“We didn’t block very well up front,” head coach Jason Simpson said during his weekly press conference. “Even though we had 411 yards, we didn’t control the line of scrimmage, and we just didn’t get him going.”
“When you’re leading rusher is you’re quarterback, and you’re not a quarterback running team,” Simpson added, “that’s not a good sign for us.”
After taking a 21-7 lead into the locker room against UCA, the defense was a major point of contention in the loss, allowing multiple long second half drives. UT Martin only got the ball five times in the second half, including after the Bears’ late go-ahead touchdown drive.
While we’re only two weeks into the season, UTM is a bit behind the eight-ball when it comes to an at large birth for the FCS Playoffs. After tonight’s game, the Skyhawks only have one non-conference game remaining, against Mississippi State in November.
Cumberland opened their season last week with a 34-27 win over No. 4 (NAIA) University of the Cumberlands. In that game, the Bulldogs turned four turnovers into 17 points as Nathan Jernigan and Justus Dauscha paced the Cumberland defense. Quarterbacks Reed Gurchiek and Broc Loveless each accounted for a touchdown while combining for 213 yards passing and 54 yards rushing.
“We’re sitting here without a win,” Simpson said. “We’re certainly not going to take anyone for granted.”
“It’s not about how many points you can out on the scoreboard,” Simspon said. “It’s not about can you get a shutout. You take it one drive at a time.”
It’s the first meeting between these two schools since 1948.