The homecoming game for UTM did not go as expected, and in a game where there was only one offensive touchdown, the defenses ruled.
The game featured six turnovers, two of which occurred on the second and third drives of the game. The first quarter would end scoreless, leaving both teams hungry for more. Murray State answered first with a 22-yard field goal towards the beginning of the second quarter, but UTM would retaliate with a field goal of their own with 4:35 left in the half. The first half ended without a single trip to the end zone, and the score sat at 3-3, both teams no doubt wanting to adjust their offenses.
The home field advantage didn’t seem to be helping the Skyhawks much, and it looked even bleaker when with only 1:40 left in the third quarter, the rain started to pour down on Hardy M. Graham stadium. The UTM special teams didn’t let it effect them however, as Kahlid Hagens returned a MSU punt for a 67 yard touchdown. It was the game’s first and coming with 11:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Things were looking good for UTM for much of the fourth quarter until with under five minutes left MSU got their first touchdown of the game. The score came off of a pass from Schuler Bentley whose receiver would fumble in the end zone only to be scraped up by MSU’s DeQuan Dallas. MSU would get the ball back, drive down the field and call a time out with six seconds left on the clock. When they came back from the time out, MSU’s kicker, Gabriel Vicente, drilled in a 32 yard field goal as the clock struck zero to make the final score 13-10 MSU.
UTM will move to 3-3 on the season and 1-2 in the OVC. The UTM football team isn’t used to back-to-back losses, but that’s where they sit having dropped a 7-0 loss at Austin Peay the week before.
In a post game press conference with a clearly frustrated but calm Head Coach Jason Simpson, he addressed UTM’s struggling offense.
“Our defense deserved a better outcome than that,” said Simpson. “Certainly didn’t win on offense and we’ll have to make some changes offensively on Monday…like I told the team downstairs, ‘understand this, this is your team but this is my program and we’re going to act a certain way, we’re going to play a certain way and if you don’t, we’ll make a youth movement around here and play young guys.’”
When asked about bringing some energy back to the team, he responded “We’re going to find out. The offensive line’s not playing good enough, the quarterback play is not good enough …and I’m responsible for all of that…we’ve got to do some soul searching and get to this off week and figure out a way to right the ship…it’s all 11 positions [on offense], we’ve got to coach them better.”
Simpson was then asked if this meant that every starting job is open. He responded with, “Oh no doubt.”
It certainly sounded like no job is safe on offense, and if players want to keep their starting jobs they’re going to have to prove in the coming week that they deserve it. The offensive line has been struggling the deeper it gets into the season.
Quarterback Troy Cook went from not being sacked in the season opener against Clarion, and only being sacked one time in each game leading up to Austin Peay, to being sacked three times against the Governors and twice against the Racers.
Starting tailback Ladarius Galloway’s numbers have continued to drop as well. Galloway went from having consecutive games where he rushed for over 150 yards in UTM’s first two games of the season, to not having a game with 100 yards since. Against MSU, Galloway had his season low with 46 yards, the team only accumulating 111 yards on the ground.
UTM now heads into its bye-week and will next play at Eastern Kentucky University who will be coming off a game against conference juggernaut Jacksonville State. That game will be on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. Simpson will undoubtedly be looking to make some changes on offense before then, and it’ll be interesting to see how the team retaliates after the back-to-back losses.