With the overlooking clouds darkening the sky above Hardy M. Graham Stadium and 20 miles per hour wind blowing the falling rain all around, the UTM football team still took the field for their first game of the 2017 season.
After running out of the tunnel and onto the sidelines for the first time this year, players paced back and forth, smacked their helmets with adrenaline, and jumped up and down in place, working out all the jitters and anticipation for the season that was about to start. Fans were in short supply due to the inclement weather, the ones that did show up donned rain coats and umbrellas.
The opening drive did not end well for UTM as quarterback Troy Cook completed a pass to wide receiver Caylon Weathers for a first down, but was hit by a Clarion defender who forced the ball out of Weathers’ grasp for a fumble that was recovered by Clarion. Once on defense, UTM forced the Clarion offense to go 3 and out, as they would for much of the game.
Back on offense, Cook and running back Ty Brown led the offense down the field inside the ten hoping to score the first points of the game. On third and goal Cook snaped the ball and was hit with what looked like a sure sack, but he spun the defender off, rolled out to his right and completed a 3 yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Londell Lee to make the game 6-0.
The next time the Skyhawk offense took the field, after another impressive 3 and out shut down by the UTM defense, on the first play of the drive Cook snapped the ball and threw a bomb down the field to wide receiver Jaylon Moore for a 37 yard touchdown in a drive that took all of 7 seconds to make the game 13-0 after the PAT.
The second quarter ended scoreless for both teams. For the Clarion offense, it was clear that they had their hands full with the UTM defense. Clarion was held to only 4 first downs in the first half and 0 passing yards while Troy Cook threw for 10-19 for 144 yards, 2 TDs, and one interception. The UTM offense was slowed down in the second quarter by a mixture of penalties and pocket pressure by the Clarion defensive line and went into the locker room coming off of a very long drive in which it looked like they could have scored.
In the second half, the offense steadily pulled away from Clarion even more on the scoreboard. It helped the Skyhawks that Clarion never scored a point. The UTM defense would continue to dominate the Clarion offense throughout the game, getting two interceptions on what would eventually be three consecutive drives with turnovers for Clarion.
The last touchdown of the game came from freshman running back Deashun Fields’ 15 yard run into the end zone for his first collegiate score. Fields’ touchdown and the PAT would make the final score 36-0, decisively winning the game for UTM and showing the defensive toughness. This made the first shutout since 2011 for the Skyhawks.
Running back Ladarius Galloway also had a strong outing, finishing with 157 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown.
UTM will start the season 1-0 against a team that they were expected to beat, but a win is a win, and the team will look to continue the trend of their season opener as long as they can.
UTM’s next game will be on Sept. 9 at 11:00 a.m. at SEC opponent Ole Miss. Fans can listen to the game on the radio at WUTM 90.3 FM The Hawk or at WCMT Mix 101.3 FM.