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League favorite toppled by UTM

League favorite toppled by UTM
Home sweet home.
The UT Martin football team made quite the favorable impression in its 2010 debut at Hardy M. Graham on Saturday night with a 20-10 victory over preseason Ohio Valley Conference favorite Eastern Illinois.
UTM  sophomores Jason McNair and Tevin Barksdale scored touchdowns, while Cody Sandlin kicked two field goals as the Skyhawks came from behind for their first victory of the season.
While the offensive prowess of McNair and Barksdale running the ball certainly thrilled the Skyhawk faithful, it was the defense that dominated the OVC opener for both teams.
UTM limited the Panthers to 222 yards of total offense — 84 yards of rushing and 138 yards of passing.
“I am very proud of our defense,” UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson said. “It’s not always the prettiest, and it may not be three-and-out. We’re not the biggest nor are we the fastest, but our defensive staff gets the most out of our guys. The staff has a good time working with the kids and our kids are playing hard and executing well.”
The UT Martin defense made its presence known early in the game, forcing the Panthers to punt on their first possession. The Skyhawks (1-2, 1-0 in OVC play) limited the Panthers (0-3, 0-1 OVC) to 65 yards of offense on 11 plays. EIU managed to take advantage of a Skyhawk turnover and took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Skyhawks countered in the second quarter when sophomore Jason McNair ran 68 yards for a touchdown. McNair turned in his second consecutive 100 yards or more rushing game. He rushed 15 times for 130 yards.
“I was proud of Jason,” Simpson said. “Any time you can gain over a hundred yards, I don’t care if it’s on one carry or on 25 as he had. He gives us a chance to win.”
EIU took a 10-7 lead with 5:58 to play in the first half when Cameron Berra kicked a 27-yard field goal.
Barksdale put the Skyhawks on top for good when he raced 49 yards on second-and-two to go before the half. Barksdale had five carries for 75 yards in the game.
The Skyhawk defense took charge in the second half by shutting out the Panthers.
EIU managed to get 69 total yards of offense in the second half, including 19 yards of rushing and 50 yards of passing.
Redshirt sophomore Darrin Nalls had five total tackles in the game, two sacks, 2.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. Both forced fumbles were in the fourth quarter. The first forced fumble led to a 26-yard field goal by sophomore Cody Sandlin. It was Sandlin’s second field goal of the game.
“When you have confidence in your kicker you take care of the ball a little more, you’re not as risky,” Simpson said. With eight points in the game, Sandlin has emerged as the Skyhawks leading scorer after three games.
Senior Josh Bey and junior college transfer CJ Estelle had six solo tackles and eight total tackles each to lead the Skyhawk defense. The Skyhawks recorded four sacks and eight tackles for a loss of 27 yards.
The Skyhawks return to action Saturday at Murray State. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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