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UTM Controls path to league title
UT Martin football is in full control of its own destiny, sitting in a first-place tie in the Ohio Valley Conference with Eastern Illinois and two games remaining in the regular season.
The Skyhawks (7-2, 5-1 OVC) cannot afford any slip-ups now with a road trip to Tennessee Tech (2-7, 0-6 OVC) coming up on Saturday and then closing out the regular season at home against Tennessee State on Nov. 17. EIU is at Southeast Missouri State on Saturday. It is EIU’s final conference game of the season.
“We all know it is huge and mathematically it is humongous,” Skyhawks head coach Jason Simpson said. “Eastern Illinois plays one less game (conference) than we do. We control our destiny, but the odds are in their favor. They have one game left versus Southeast Missouri. All they have to do is win and they at least share a piece of it.”
UTM’s win over EIU in the season gives the Skyhawks the tiebreaker if both teams finish the season tied for first place.
They Skyhawks must concentrate on TTU and not worry about EIU. Even though Tech’s record suggests that UTM should win on Saturday and win big, that may not be the case.
The Golden Eagles only lost by three to SEMO, by one to TSU and held their own against EIU, Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky before finally losing.
“They very easily could be sitting here at 3-3 or 4-2 in the league, but they’re not,” he said. “So, they are a very dangerous football team. They would like to take away our goals and our dreams. If you watch the tape, you do not realize where they are in the won/loss record.”
Simpson mentioned UT Martin’s having to be road warriors against TTU. If there is one thing the Skyhawks have been this season, it is road warriors. The Skyhawks are 4-1 on the road, which has helped to put them in the position they are right now. UTM struggled on the road in 2011 with a 1-5 record.
Simpson said the team has grown up this season, and that is the reason the team is winning on the road.
“That is one of the things about last year is we did not play very well on the road,” the coach said. “It is maturity and overcoming things that don’t go your way.”
Things have gone well enough for the Skyhawks this season that they are ranked in the top 25 in three different polls. UTM is ranked No. 20 in the College Sports Madness Poll, ranked No. 23 in the Sports Network FCS Top 25 College Football Poll and ranked No. 24 in the FCS Coaches Poll, which is the hardest poll to get ranked in.
Cracking the top 25 in any poll is something for the Skyhawks to be proud of, and Simpson is hoping his team is talking about it. But to remain ranked the Skyhawks will have to keep winning.
“That is something to be proud of,” the UTM head coach said. “Those things go away if you do not keep winning. We want to get in the top 10 before the season runs out. Win the next two, and you have a chance to do that. The athletes come when you are winning, and you win when you prepare.”
Preparing is something the Skyhawks have been very good at as of late, especially with the offense. Derek Carr’s seven touchdown passes against JSU on Saturday marked the second time this season he has hit that total.
He has thrown for more 300 yards three times, including 560 yards against Murray State.
Carr is currently fifth in the nation in points responsible for with 16.67 per game. He is 10th in total passing yards with 2,578, 10th in passing yards per game with 286.44 and 11th in passing efficiency with a 151.63 rating.
Carr has his receivers to thank for his passing numbers this season.
Senior wide receiver Quentin Sims has eight touchdown catches in the last three games, and junior wide receiver Jeremy Butler has five TD catches in the same time frame. Sims also has 10 or more receptions in three games and has more than 100 yards receiving four times this season.
Senior running back Tevin Barksdale has rushed for more than 100 yards the last two games to complement the passing the game.
By RANDY CAVIN, Weakley County Press