UTM still riding Memphis high
Posted: Friday, September 7, 2012 12:00 pm
By RANDY CAVIN
It has been several years since UT Martin has opened the season with a road win, since 1994 against Southern Illinois to be precise.
All that changed Saturday with one kick by the Skyhawks’ Cody Sandlin when he booted a 43-yard field goal with four seconds left on the clock to give the Skyhawks a 20-17 win over Memphis.
It was redemption for Sandlin, who missed two earlier field goal attempts. He made up for it by making two in the last five minutes of the game. When his foot met the ball for the game winner, he knew he connected well with it.
“I didn’t even want to look up,” Sandlin said. “I knew I had solid contact. Once I knew it had cleared the line, I kind of peeked up just a little bit. When I saw it go through the posts, I just turned around and took off running. I knew it was going to have the distance.”
For Sandlin it ranks up there as one of the top kicks he has made throughout his football career.
“I have had two-game winners; one was in high school, and this trumps that 10-fold,” Sandlin said. “It is by far the best kick.”
A lot of teams will try to ice the kicker in a game-winning situation by taking a timeout to in order to rattle his nerves. Sandlin was actually glad Memphis took a timeout and said that was the best thing the Tigers could have done.
“Honestly the best thing that happened is when Memphis took that timeout,” the Skyhawks’ kicker said. “I got to take a deep breath and exhale. I got to really think about the repetition of doing it over and over again.”
For head coach Jason Simpson it was a big win, one of his biggest as head coach.
“We won the conference and that one is big, but I do not want to take anything away from that” Simpson said. “To see what it means to our alumni and to our kids as far as their memories, it is very enjoyable.”
It was not only the first road win to open up a season since 1994, it was also the first win over a FBS program for UTM.
Some day those firsts will run out, according to Simpson.
“We’ve had a lot of firsts around here,” he said. “There are going to be a lot more firsts. Eventually, we’ll play those firsts out. But your dream and goal is to win that first national championship.”
Not only will this win stick in the back of Simpson’s mind, but also something that Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said to him after game.
“Winning the game, obviously, was awesome,” Simpson said. “But to get compliments from their head coach saying that we have an outstanding program. We’ve got a solid program. You can have a good team. You can get some transfers in here and you can roll the dice, roll 22 guys out there for one year. I felt very satisfied about that to get compliments about our program.”
The Skyhawks showed a lot of balance with the running game getting 38 plays and getting 39 plays in the passing game. The Skyhawks head coach was pleased with the efforts of the running trio of Tevin Barksdale, Jason McNair and D.J. McNeil.
“We are (run) by committee, and two of them are seniors,” Simpson said. “D.J. McNeil won’t let them take a day off. That is a luxury that we have. He will not let them not practice hard. He deserved to play the way he practiced, and that is why he got his 10 carries. They’re all good friends. I do not think any of them are going to be jealous if somebody else gets more carries.”
The Skykawks will face another tough challenge on Saturday when they face their second FBS school is as many weeks. Northern Illinois, of the Mid-American Conference, nearly beat Iowa this past weekend and won the GoDaddy.com Bowl last season. The Huskies will come at the Skyhawks with a defense that is all too familiar to Simpson.
“They return a lot of players over on defense,” Simpson said. “There is some carry-over from UT Martin. Our former defensive line coach, Ryan Nielsen, is the co-defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. I know what kind of teacher he is and how he is with fundamentals with his players. It shows up on tape. Their defensive line is very, very impressive.”
The game is at DeKalb, Ill. with a 6 p.m. kickoff. Published in The WCP 9.6.12
UTM still riding Memphis high