UTM linebacker Tony Bell became the school’s all-time sacks leader Thursday night as the Skyhawks picked up their first Ohio Valley Conference win over Tennessee Tech, 17-10.
Tony Bell broke the record in the second quarter when he sacked Eagles quarterback Darian Stone, his 18th career sack. Bell breaks the record previously held by Emanuel McNeil, who played from 1985-1988.
The win gives the Skyhawks (2-5, 1-3 OVC) their first OVC win of the season and also boosts their chances of winning the Sgt. Alvin C. York Trophy, given to the top OVC football team from the state of Tennessee. Amongst the background noise and cheers of his team celebrating, head coach Jason Simpson had this to say about the win.
“It was good to get the monkey off our back and get a win here at home – an OVC win,” said Simpson. “We’ve won a lot of games and you take them for granted.”
UTM started the game with the ball and drove 75-yards in 13 plays to score the first touchdown in the game. The touchdown, a 2-yard run from Abou Toure, was the only score the Skyhawks had in the first half. Tennessee Tech had a hard time getting any momentum on offense in the first quarter, but finally got on the board midway through the second quarter when Eagle’s kicker John Arnold nailed a 49-yard field goal, giving UTM a 7-3 lead.
After the field goal, UTM got the ball back and fumbled it on the first play of the drive. Tennessee Tech pounced on the football at the UTM 10-yard line, giving the Eagles another scoring chance and a chance to take the lead. However, similar to the Cumberland game, the Skyhawk defense held the Eagles out of the end zone on four straight plays and stopped them short on the one-yard line. The Skyhawks took over and drained the clock with a 7-3 lead going into the locker room at halftime.
The Skyhawks kept their four point lead until late in the third quarter when quarterback Jarod Neal tucked the ball and ran it 35-yards for a touchdown. UTM would pad their lead midway through the fourth quarter when Jackson Redditt kicked a 23-yard field goal, giving the Skyhawks a 17-3 lead. The very next drive, Tennessee Tech put together a few big plays to get down deep inside UTM territory.
With 5:11 remaining in the game and the Eagles driving on the UTM 42-yard line, the game was stopped due to lightning in the area. Shortly after the players left the field and the fans left the stadium, heavy rains pounded Graham Stadium and the Martin area. After a two hour and seven minute weather delay, play resumed with Tennessee Tech completing their drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Ladari Vanlier. With four minutes remaining, the Skyhawks were able to get the ball back and secured their victory, 17-10.
Offensively, the Skyhawks picked up 354 yards of total offense, including 228 rushing yards and 126 passing yards. Jarod Neal got the start at quarterback due to Favre being “banged up” after last week’s loss to Jacksonville State. Neal completed 15 out of his 20 passes for 126 yards and ran the ball eight times for 73 yards and a touchdown. Darian Stone completed 10 of his 22 passes for 149 yards for the Eagles. Stone was also the leading rusher for Tennessee Tech, carrying the ball 14 times for 78 yards.
Abou Toure led the Skyhawk’s running attack, carrying the ball 21 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. Vanlier, the second leading rusher for the Eagles behind Stone, ran the ball 11 times for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Kyle Kerrick and Rod Wright led the Skyhawk receivers, Kerrick catching four passes for 45 yards and Wright catching three passes for 38 yards.
The Skyhawk defense had a big game, holding Tennessee Tech to 10 points and 262 yards of total offense.
“Very, very proud of our defensive staff,” said Simpson. “Now that [Tennessee Tech] offense has struggled all year long, but at least they struggled again…Very proud of our kids.”
The Skyhawks will continue on their quest for their third Sgt. York Trophy on Saturday, Oct. 18 when they take on the Tennessee State Tigers. Kickoff between the Skyhawks and the Tigers is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be played at Hale Stadium on Tennessee State’s campus instead of their usual venue, LP Field.