Skyhawks finally own road win
Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 12:03 pm
CHARLESTON, Ill. — UT Martin relied on big plays and a key defensive stand to salvage a 24-23 victory over host Eastern Illinois Saturday afternoon.
With the victory the Skyhawks improve to 3-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference and 4-3 on the season. The Skyhawks will host Southeast Missouri State 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Hardy M. Graham Stadium.
After losing three games by a total of seven points this season, UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson was glad to see the Skyhawks come out on top in a close game.
“We needed a win like this,” Simpson said. “We have a ton of things to fix, but it was good to get this one today.”
The UTM defense stopped Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on fourth-and-two when Jarvis McCann forced the sophomore quarterback to fumble the ball. Darrin Nalls recovered the loose ball and the Skyhawks were able to run out the final 1:42 of the game.
The UT Martin defense put an end to EIU’s running game early but never could stop Garoppolo and the Panthers’ passing assault. Garoppolo completed 27-of-36 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
“They can load the box and throw the football,” Simpson said.
UT Martin junior Montori Hughes, a Tennessee transfer, led the Skyhawk defense with 10 tackles, one sack, 5.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“I am glad he (Hughes) is on our team,” Simpson said.
While the Skyhawk defense shut down the EIU running game, it was the Panthers defense that derailed the Skyhawk offense most of the afternoon. UT Martin only ran 13 plays for 35 total yards in the first quarter before erupting for 137 yards and 10 points in the second quarter. Cody Sandlin’s 29-yard field goal with 12:31 to play capped an 11-play drive that covered 48 yards put the Skyhawks on the scoreboard. However, EIU led 7-3.
The Skyhawks then capitalized on an Eastern Illinois turnover. Hughes recovered an EIU fumble and the Skyhawks went 62 yards in six plays. Derek Carr capped off the drive with a 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Quentin Sims with 2:36 to play in the first half.
Eastern Illinois opened the third quarter with a nine-play scoring drive highlighted by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Von Wise.
The Skyhawks used another big play to answer the EIU score. Bobby Ellis from Dyersburg blocked Scott Weatherford’s punt and the Skyhawks scored four plays later when tailback Tevin Barksdale found paydirt on a 1-yard run. Sandlin added the PAT and the Skyhawks led 17-13.
Garoppolo and the Panthers continued their air assault and answered the Skyhawks quickly. Garoppolo connected with Sam Hendricks for a 12-yard touchdown pass, and the Panthers led 20-17 with 13:22 to play in the game.
The Skyhawks took advantage of sophomore Corey Jordan’s 50-yard kickoff return to respond to the Panthers this time. Sims, who caught three touchdowns against South Alabama last week, hauled in a 12-yard pass from Carr.
Sandlin added the PAT and the Skyhawks led 24-20 with 11:02 to play.
The Skyhawks managed to hold the Panthers to a field goal on their ensuing possession. Garoppolo threw three incomplete passes inside the Skyhawks’ 38 yard line. Cameron Berra’s 24-yard field goal cut the Skyhawks lead to one, 24-23, with 7:56 to play.
The Skyhawk victory at O’Brien Field was the first in nine tries. It also marked the first time in three attempts the Skyhawks have defeated Eastern Illinois on homecoming.
EIU head coach Bob Spoo announced his retirement before the season.
“This was their homecoming and coach Spoo spent some time before the game telling me how much our program has improved over the years,” Simpson said. “I hope our program can mirror coach Spoo and the success EIU has had throughout the years.” Published in The WCP 10.25.11