After starting off 3-1, the UTM football team dropped three straight, including the homecoming game against Murray State. Coming into Saturday’s matchup, and the first game back home for the Skyhawks since homecoming, the team desperately needed a win.
After the Murray St. game it was clear that some changes needed to be made on offense, as the Skyhawks only scored 10 points against the supposedly lesser team. The bye week came following the loss to MSU and Head Coach Jason Simpson did in fact make some changes. The biggest and most obvious change became clear as true freshman quarterback Dresser Winn got his first start under center for UTM against Eastern Kentucky. The Skyhawks would lose that game 31-21, and return home to play Eastern Illinois University.
Eastern Illinois came in sitting at 5-3 on the season, having dropped a four game winning streak the week before in a loss to Jacksonville State (30-14). UTM and EIU had contrasting records in the OVC (UTM 1-3, EIU 4-1) with both teams coming off of a conference loss, but with EIU having the stronger record, UTM came home as somewhat of an underdog.
The first play of the game from scrimmage, a run play by UTM, prophesied that it would be a long day as the tailback fumbled the ball for EIU to fall on. As the first quarter winded down however, with 3:40 left and the score tied at 3-3, EIU’s quarterback was hit from behind and the ball popped up in the air for UTM defender Anthony Brown to grab and run into the end zone to make the score 10-3 after the PAT.
The very next drive for EIU would end in an interception caught by Tae Martin, who would run it 42 yards before being tackled. The second touchdown for UTM came after a long run by Winn to the one yard line, as quarterback Troy Cook was put in and threw a touchdown pass to Donnell Williams to make the score 17-3 after the PAT by Mitch Mersman.
After EIU scored at the 3:47 mark in the third quarter, Cook would immediately answer back with a 28 yard pass (after a 62 yard kick return by true freshman Peyton Logan) that would be caught in the end zone by Jaylon Moore to make it 24-10 UTM. The last score of the game would come from a 35 yard field goal by Mersman, only 9 seconds into the fourth quarter, to make the final score 27-10 UTM.
“Real proud of our sideline, the mentality of our kids,” said Simpson postgame. “Energy was good and our defense doesn’t waiver…any time your defense scores it’s such a joy for you, such energy.”
Perhaps one of the biggest factors in the game was EIU’s five turnovers, four ints. and one fumble. The one fumble was the defensive score that Simpson referred to.
Neither Winn nor Cook threw an interception in the game; Winn getting the start for the first half and Cook getting it for the majority of the second. Winn would finish the game 5-7 for 83 yards, 32 yards on the ground and no TD; Cook finished 3-5 for 29 yards and two TDs.
“College level’s a whole lot faster,” said Winn. “At the same time you’ve got to treat it almost like you did in high school. Treat it like nothing’s different, keep your confidence, think you’re as good as anybody out there and it helps a ton.”
Hopefully for UTM, Winn will keep that mentality as the Skyhawks next go into Southeast Missouri State, to battle a team who will be coming off of a 23-7 loss from Jacksonville State, on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m. UTM will come in with a record of 4-4, and SEMO with a record of 2-6, both teams holding a 2-3 record in the OVC.