Records, Racers take big beating from Skyhawks

Records, Racers take big beating from Skyhawks

By RANDY CAVIN
Special to The Messenger
In a game where records were shattered, it was the team that had the final possession that was going to win. That team was UT Martin.
The Skyhawks came out with a 66-59 win over Murray State on Saturday to spoil MSU’s homecoming game. Six school and Ohio Valley Conference records were broken and one tied between the two in their league and regional football showdown at Murray’s Roy Stewart Stadium.
The combined 125 points scored set an OVC record. The previous record was 97 points set by UTM and Tennessee State in 1998 and tied in 2007 by UTM and MSU.
Starting quarterbacks for both schools put up astounding numbers. UTM quarterback Derek Carr finished with 560 yards of passing, which set a school record, and broke the school single game record with seven touchdown passes. He now has 54 career touchdowns.
 But, it was his completion-to-attempt ratio that stands out. Carr completed 42-of-46 of his passes for a completion percentage of 91 percent.
“The biggest thing is only four incompletions,” Skyhawks head coach Jason Simpson said. “Carr stepped up and the offense stepped up, but this was a team win.”
MSU’s Casey Brockman had 537 yards passing and set an OVC record with eight touchdowns. His 45 completions tied the OVC record he set last season.
The two teams combined for a total of 1,440 yards of offense in a game that the Skyhawks made just enough defensive plays to stop the Racers. Senior defensive back Thad Williams intercepted Brockman and turned up field 42 yards for a touchdown with 13:31 to play in the first quarter.
Williams made another huge play with two minutes left in the game. With the Racers facing a fourth down and three yards to go from their own 29, Brockman made a great throw to Walter Powell, but Williams defended the play beautifully and got his hand on the ball just as it got to Powell.
“We knew all we needed was a play, just a couple stops,” Simpson said.
That stop by Williams allowed the Skyhawks to score four plays later on DJ McNeil’s nine-yard run. Cody Sandlin’s extra point gave UTM a 66-52 lead with 1:19 to play.
This was definitely not a game about defense. It was all offense from the two teams. Simpson wanted his offense to turn it up a notch, and on this day the offense did that and then some.
“I’d been on their case the last few weeks because I didn’t feel like they’d played to their potential,” Simpson said.
Carr and his receiving corps stepped up the plate for their head coach.
“We got something going for us now,” Carr said. “We proved that we can score points, and early in the season that was kind of a question mark for us.”
UTM had three receivers with over 100 yards in receptions, a first in the school’s history. Quentin Sims had 12 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. Jeremy Butler had eight catches for 177 yards and a school-record four touchdowns. Chris Thompson had seven catches for 116 yards and one touchdown.
“Carr did a great job leading us, trusting us to come down with the ball,” Butler said. “I just trusted what I had seen on film and prepared all week for this and getting ready for it.”
Carr said after the game that he would not have had that many completions if it were not for his receivers getting open and his offensive line giving him the time he needed to find the open receivers.
“I wouldn’t say the completions were easy,” Carr said, “But when you have people like Quentin Sims, Jeremy Butler and Chris Thompson, it is easy. Then, add the offensive line. There was one time where I had enough time to go to my fourth read.”
UTM led 42-31 after a first half in which Butler caught three of his scoring passes, and he and Thompson had scoring catches in the third quarter when the Skyhawks increased their lead to 59-38.
DJ McNeil’s nine-yard scoring run with 1:19 remaining — the only rushing touchdown of the game — gave UTM a 66-52 lead, and it held on despite Brockman’s final touchdown pass with three seconds left.
The Skyhawks’ 28-10 lead after one quarter marked the fifth time in six years that the winner of this game had 28 points by the end of the quarter.
Murray State made it a 66-59 game just 1:16 after UTM’s last score on a 10-play, 75-yard drive. The Racers tried an onside kick, but the Skyhawks recovered it on the MSU 44 and ran out the clock.
Simpson said his team talked with injured defensive back Fred Flenorl before the game. Flenorl suffered a season-ending neck injury last week against Eastern Illinois and has had two surgeries to stabilize his vertebrae.
“Fred is the epitome of a teammate,” Simpson said. “His enthusiasm is not fake. It’s real. Fred gets the game ball tonight.”
The win keeps UTM right in the hunt for the OVC crown and automatic bid for the FCS playoffs. UTM is 3-1 in the OVC and tied for second with Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Illinois. TSU is in first place at 3-0. The Skyhawks are 5-2 on the season at play at 2-4 Southeast Missouri State on Saturday.

Published in The Messenger 10.15.12

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