|Six games into the season, UT Martin was winless and had dropped three consecutive Ohio Valley Conference games by a field goal each. |
Nothing like homecoming to cure those ills.
Don Chapman recorded his 20th career 100-yard rushing game, and Dexter Anoka ran for two scores and threw for a third touchdown to lead the Skyhawks to a 31-21 homecoming victory over Samford Saturday afternoon before over 6,000 fans at
UTM bolted to a 31-0 lead early in the third quarter after Chapman darted into
the endzone from 16 yards out, then wasted a couple of chances to pour it on while the Bulldogs scored three times in the final four minutes to make the eventual margin respectable.
It was obviously a much-needed shot-in-the-arm for a program that was coming off an Ohio Valley Conference championship last season, and picked third in the league this preseason.
“This wasn’t the prettiest win in the world, but who are we to complain about wins right now?” Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson said afterward. “Wins are hard to come by, and we know that. Let’s just keep playing and win the rest of our games.”
Chapman, the Skyhawks’ all-time leading rusher, ran for 113 yards on 24 carries, 93 of those yards gained in the second half. He needs 438 yards over UT Martin’s final four games to become just the 13th player ever to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.
Anoka, who took some of the luster off his stats by fumbling and losing snaps twice inside the Samford one in the second half, nonetheless ran to paydirt from one and 11 yards, and hit Jessie Burton with a pretty 50-yard scoring pass to give UTM a 24-0 halftime lead.
The Skyhawk defense was especially impressive over the first three quarters, allowing a Samford team that was averaging 370 yards-per-game coming in to just 160 yards until the Bulldogs tallied three times late against mainly reserves.
“I’m real proud of the team for keeping focused and fighting every week and having a good attitude,” Simpson added. “We know we have a good football team.
We just haven’t made the plays to get over the hump.”
UTM took advantage of a bobbled punt snap by the Bulldogs for great field position to set up its first TD.
Burton ran 20 yards on a end-around play to set up Anoka’s first score, a one-yard sneak. Tom Hansen, who made all four PAT kicks plus a 35-yard field goal, made it 7-0 before the game was four minutes old.
Burton’s 14-yard punt return and a 22-yard strike from Anoka to Roren Thomas set up Anoka’s second TD scamper, an 11-yard keeper around right end that made it
14-0 with 1:37 left in the first quarter.
Hansen’s field goal and Anoka’s pefectly-lofted aerial to Burton — both in the second period — increased UTM’s lead to 24-0 at the half.
A roughing the kicker penalty kept alive the Skyhawks’ opening drive of the second half, one that proved to be UT Martin’s best-sustained offensive sequence. Trace McDermott, who subbed liberally for Chapman, ripped off a 22-yard gainer before Chapman did his thing on a 16-yard scoring run to cap a seven-play, 68-yard drive and make it 31-0.
Samford (3-3, 1-2), which had won 14 of the 15 previous meetings between the two clubs, got touchdown passes from starter Jefferson Davis, and backup QB Dante Williams in the last four minutes. Adrian Bradley’s one-yard plunge followed an interception of UT Martin No. 3 quarterback James Pritchard and accounted for the Bulldogs’ other score.
UT Martin plays at Eastern Illinois next Saturday.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.