|UT Martin’s fast start finishes off Racers |
|Posted: Friday, September 23, 2011 7:02 pm |
|By KEVIN WEAKS |
UT Martin’s offense had Murray State looking up from the bottom of a big hole by the end of the first quarter.
The Skyhawks’ defense then spent the next three quarters shoveling in the dirt.
UTM jumped out to a commanding 28-0 lead after the first 15 minutes and kept the Racers’ potent offense from ever really being a threat in a 48-26 win that wasn’t that close Thursday night at Graham Stadium in Martin.
The Skyhawks jumped right back into the Ohio Valley Conference race, improving to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the league.
The Racers, meanwhile, lived on both extremes in less than a week in falling to 2-2 and 1-1. Just six days removed from a record-setting win over Tennessee State where several players earned league and national honors and the team picked up its first national ranking since 2002, MSU was held to just two offensive touchdowns.
“If you don’t tackle, they’ll score 50,” UTM head coach Jason Simpson. “On a bad game, they still got 408 (yards) of total offense. But, I don’t think that’s indicative of how well our defense played. They blocked a punt and got a short field. There was only one drive, and that was in the fourth quarter, where I didn’t think we played our brand of defense. We played with six DBs most of the night, and we did tackle. That’s what got them to third downs, which gave us a chance to get off the field.”
The punt block came near the end of the first quarter, setting up the Racers at UTM’s 19-yard-line. It took Murray just three plays to get into the end zone for its first score of the game.
UTM, however, already had four touchdowns on the board after spending the first quarter establishing its running game.
Jason McNair had two touchdown runs of 11 yards and another covering 12 yards, while Tevin Barksdale added a six-yard scoring run.
Barksdale finished with 118 yards rushing on 14 carries, while McNair added 104 yards on 23 tries to lead a ground attack that amassed 272 yards and helped UTM dominate the time of possession with an advantage of 34:54 to MSU’s 25:06.
“I’m very proud of our offensive line, tight ends and backs,” Simpson said. “Toward the end of the game, they knew we were going to run the ball. So, to rush for 272 when they know you’re going to run it, I’m proud of that.”
UT Martin almost didn’t get started, forced to punt after three plays to open the game. But, a roughing the penalty kicker gave the UTM a second life, and the Skyhawks then lived it up.
UTM held the ball for nearly 10 minutes of the quarter, piling up 161 yards rushing and 57 passing while limiting the Racers to just 66 yards on 16 snaps.
Perhaps shell-shocked by a 28-0 deficit at the end of the first quarter, Murray State finally got something going early in the second period, this time making something positive happen out of special teams.
Jeffrey Richard blocked a Joe Hook punt, and Dexter Barnett recovered at the UTM 19, kick-starting the Racers that resulted in a Mike Harris nine-yard TD run three plays later.
UTM was then forced to punt again, and the Racers appeared to have turned the tide when Harris broke off a 45-yard run down to the Skyhawks’ 24. Quarterback Casey Brockman then rushed for 11 more to the 13.
But, UTM held Murray State to a 31-yard field goal at 6:54. UTM then followed with a scoring drive of its own, effectively erasing Murray’s points with Cody Sandlin’s 20-yard kick at 4:03 for a 31-9 lead that the Skyhawks carried into intermission.
Simpson said trying to convince his team that the game would basically be back to 0-0 to start the second half wouldn’t be realistic. Reminding them of what could happen, however, might provide just the right amount of motivation to keep his team from getting complacent.
“You’d like to think that, but that’s not the reality,” Simpson said of a brand new scoreless game to start the second half. “So, I just told them to remember how they felt after the Jacksonville State game, where we had a lot less lead than this and left a conference win on the table. You can’t do that and expect to stay in the conference race, and you especially can’t do it at home.”
Still, the Skyhawks did not get off to a good start in the second half, flagged for a facemask penalty then rattled for 36-yard pass completion from Brockman to Hannibal Beauford.
But, UTM’s defense stiffened again, limiting the Racers to a 27-yard Kienan Cullen field goal.
“Holding them to a field goal to start the third quarter was huge,” Simpson pointed out. “That was a big momentum turn for us.”
Momentum firmly back on its side, UTM would not loosen its grip again.
UT Martin reached the end zone twice in the third quarter, a seven-yard run by Barksdale and a 36-yard pass from Derek Carr to Stephen Shiver for a 45-12 lead with 43 seconds left.
A 98-yard kickoff return for a score 15 seconds later did little more than put more points on the board for Murray State. UTM swapped a Sandlin 20-yard field goal for an eight-yard TD pass from Brockman to Dexter Durrante in the fourth quarter. Published in The Messenger 9.23.11