MARTIN, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee at Martin football team ended its six-game losing streak with a 31-21 Ohio Valley Conference victory over visiting Samford Saturday afternoon at Hardy M. Graham Stadium. For three quarters the host Skyhawks dominated the game, scoring 31 unanswered points. Sophomore quarterback Dexter Anoka scored two first-quarter touchdowns and threw for another. Anoka completed 10-of-17 passes for 123 yards. Samford spoiled the shutout by scoring three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game. "This was not the prettiest win in the world, but who are we to complain about wins right now," said Jason Simpson, the Skyhawks’ second-year head coach. The Skyhawks opened the season with three consecutive non-conference setbacks and then dropped three consecutive OVC games by three points each. The Skyhawk defense set the table early for the win. In the first quarter, on Samford’s first possession of the game, defensive end Craig Worthen introduced himself to the Bulldogs. Worthen forced Samford QB Jefferson Adcock to hurry a pass and then he threw Samford punter Tyler Baker for a 14-yard loss on 4th-and-15. The Skyhawks got the ball on the Samford 21-yard line and three plays later Anoka was in the end zone and the Skyhawks led 7-0 with 11:26 to play in the first quarter. Junior Adam Ivey set up the Skyhawks’ second touchdown in the first quarter with a booming, 51-yard punt that pinned the Bulldogs down at the UT Martin 10-yard line. Kevin Rondo came up with the big stop on the drive for the Skyhawks when he threw Marcus Rice for a 3-yard loss on Samford’s first down play. The Bulldogs were forced to punt again and this time the Skyhawks got the ball at midfield. Jessie Burton returned the ball 15 yards and the Skyhawks set up shop on Samford’s 35-yard line. Five plays and two timeouts later, Anoka found paydirt again. This time the sophomore signal-caller from Atlanta scored on an 11-yard run. The big play in the drive was Anoka’s 22-yard pass to sophomore Roren Thomas. UT Martin led 14-0 with 1:37 to play in the first quarter. "Maybe they (the plays) weren’t as pretty as you want, but we jumped on them 14-0," Simpson said. Worthen and junior college transfer Clarence Pendleton helped the Skyhawks once again put points on the board when they teamed up to throw Samford running back Chris Evans for a 3-yard loss. Samford was forced to punt, but this time the Skyhawks set up shop deep in their own territory and had to go 85 yards for any kind of scoreboard action. Don Chapman and back-up quarterback Cade Thompson worked this drive for the Skyhawks. Chapman had four carries for small gains in the drive, while Thompson hooked up with freshman Trace McDermott for a 22-yard pass completion. The drive was stymied when Thompson’s pass to EJ Daniel on 3rd-and-five was incomplete. The Skyhawks opted to go for the field goal rather than a first down on 4th-and-five. The decision paid off as junior Tom Hansen kicked a 35-yard field goal to give the Skyhawks a 17-0 lead with 4:34 to play in the first half. "The field goal was the biggest thing," Simpson said. "Getting it to 17 instead of sitting on 14 like we did at Austin Peay was important to us." The defense continued to help the Skyhawk offense in the first half. On Samford’s ensuing possession, Rondo intercepted Jefferson Adcock and tacked on a 27-yard return to set up the Skyhawk offense at midfield. The interception was the first of the season for the Skyhawks. On the first play after the interception, with Anoka back at quarterback, the Skyhawks dropped the bomb on Samford. Anoka hit Jessie Burton with a 50-yard strike for a touchdown. Hansen added the PAT and the Skyhawks led 24-0 with 2:40 left in the half. Anoka finished the game with 123 passing yards. He completed 10-of-17 passes and didn’t have an interception. The Skyhawk defense held Samford, a team that had been averaging almost 200 yards of rushing a game this season, to minus-6 yards of rushing on 12 attempts in the first half. Samford didn’t have much luck in the second half with its rushing attack. The Skyhawks allowed only 30 yards of rushing in the game. It was the Skyhawk rushing game that came to life in the second half. Chapman picked up 12 yards of rushing on the first play of the half. He scored eight plays later on a 16-yard gallop into the end zone. The key play in the scoring drive was a roughing the kicker call on Samford. The miscue was good for 15 yards and a Skyhawk first down. Chapman rushed 24 times in the game for 113 yards. His tally marked the 20th time in his career that he has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. This was Chapman’s third game of the season to rush for more than 100 yards in a contest. The Skyhawks led 31-0 with 12:34 to play in the third quarter. UT Martin’s defense forced Samford to punt for the fifth time in the game. This time around the Skyhawks relied strictly on their running game. A 17-play drive put the Skyhawks on the Samford 1-yard line, but Anoka fumbled the ball and the drive was stymied. The Skyhawks followed that march with a 16-play attack that Anoka fumbled away on the 1-yard line again. "I am real proud of the coaches who made an adjustment at halftime," Simpson said. "We were able to run the ball effectively in the second half. The 16-play drive and the 17-play drive show we were able to dominate them up front. "We didn’t finish off our points, but that’s the ground game we are looking for," Simpson said. Samford spoiled the shutout by scoring three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the game. Samford’s first touchdown was the result of the Skyhawk fumble, while the second TD was set up when the Bulldogs intercepted a James Pritchard pass. The third score came about after a successful onside kick. "We gave up some junk yards late. We made a mistake on special teams. I would like to see them go away," Simpson said. "Overall the defense turned in a good effort." The Skyhawks (1-6 and 1-3 OVC) return to action Saturday when they play at Eastern Illinois. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. "Our kids need to enjoy this and these coaches need to enjoy it. Wins are hard to come by and we know that," Simpson said. "We’re looking forward to going to practice. Let’s just keep playing and win the rest of our games."
Samford vs. Tennessee-Martin box score