The UT Martin Skyhawks will have a chance next week to clinch their third Sgt. York Trophy after they defeated the Tennessee State Tigers 21-16 on Saturday afternoon.
The Skyhawks (3-5, 2-3 OVC) needed a win over the in-state rival to at least clinch a share of the Sgt. York Trophy.
“Big win, very proud of the players, and a great job by our defensive staff,” said UTM head coach Jason Simpson. “Not a big statistical day, but it was enough to get the win on the road, and any time you can do that in our conference is a good day.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Skyhawks jumped out front first when Reuben Duckworth broke a 10-yard touchdown run on their first drive of the second quarter. Tennessee State marched down the field on the next drive, but were only held to a 34-yard field goal by Lane Clark. Neither team would get on the board for the rest of the first half, and the Skyhawks took a 7-3 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Tennessee State got the ball to start the second half and was able to drive the ball, getting down to the TSU 44-yard line. However with pressure by Deante Glover, Tiger quarterback Michael German threw an interception to nose tackle Keith Jones, who returned it 42-yards for a touchdown.
UTM would take advantage of another Tennessee State turnover later in the third quarter. On the first play of the drive, Tiger running back Telvin Hooks was stripped of the football by Nick Dance and the fumble was recovered by Tony Bell on the TSU 12-yard line. The Skyhawks capitalized a few plays later with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jarod Neal to Corey Rodgers, his only catch in the game.
Down 21-3 at the end of the third quarter, Tennessee State needed to get points on the board if they wanted a chance to make a comeback. The Tigers did just that on their first drive of the fourth quarter by marching down the field and getting their first touchdown in the game, a 26-yard touchdown pass from German to Wel Garlington.
With under five minutes to go in the game, German would answer again with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Mitchell, narrowing the gap and giving UTM a 21-16 lead after missing the extra point.
Trailing by five points, Tennessee State had to get the football back, but with the help of Najee Ray and Duckworth, the Skyhawks where able to drain the last four minutes and 34 seconds to seal the 21-16 win.
The Skyhawks picked up only 67 passing yards and 143 rushing yards for a combined 210 yards of total offense. Tennessee State had 367 yards of total offense, but two turnovers and 13 penalties for 121-yards proved costly for the Tigers.
UTM quarterback Jarod Neal started and played the entire game for the second week in a row. Neal completed 11 of his 18 passes for 67 yards and one passing touchdown. Tiger quarterback Michael German completed 18 of his 36 passes for 314 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
The Skyhawks had three running backs to rush for over 40 yards. Najee Ray led the Skyhawks rushing attack with 10 carries for 61 yards. Following behind him was Reuben Duckworth, who had 14 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown, and Abou Toure, who had 12 carries for 48 yards.
The win gives the Skyhawks a lot of momentum for next week when they host Austin Peay for Homecoming. Kickoff between the Skyhawks and the Governors is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at Graham Stadium.