The UT Martin football team turned to redshirt-freshman Tyler Larco and he cashed in for the third time in the contest, this time with a 46-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Skyhawks to a 37-34 road victory over OVC rival Austin Peay on Sunday afternoon at Fortera Stadium.
The Skyhawks (2-2, 2-2 OVC) picked up their first win in Clarksville since 2015 on the steady leg of Larco who was perfect on the afternoon, booting three field goals from 30, 41 and most importantly from 46 yards to take an early advantage in the Sgt. York Trophy series.
In a contest which saw the lead become either tied or change hands 11 times, UT Martin outlasted Austin Peay on its home turf. The Skyhawks got on the board first as running back Peyton Logan found the endzone for the first time this season with a six-yard rushing touchdown late in the first quarter for his seventh career score. Austin Peay wasted very little time responding however, as Draylen Ellis found Eugene Minter for a 51-yard touchdown strike just 98 seconds later to tie up the contest right before the end of the quarter.
The second quarter saw plenty of offense with both teams combining for 26 points. Ellis would lead the Govs down the field for a pair of touchdowns – finding Jay Parker for a 13-yard strike on the first drive of the period before hitting Minter again for a 27-yard pass in the final minutes. UT Martin scratched together some scoring drives of its own as John Bachus III found Donnell Williams in the corner of the endzone for a 16-yard touchdown for their second scoring connection this season while Larco added a pair of field goals from 30 and 41 yards. When everything was said and done, both teams would head into halftime tied at 20 points apiece.
Austin Peay struck quickly coming out of the half in the first 69 seconds on a 12-yard rush by Ahmaad Tanner. The Skyhawks later responded as Bachus found Rodney Williams II for their third touchdown completion of the season – this time a 19-yard strike – to tie the contest as 27-all. That equalizer would be short-lived however as the Govs found the endzone once again just 32 seconds later as Ellis hit Deangelo Wilson for a 45-yard pass to give the home squad a 34-27 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
UT Martin would still trail by seven until midway through the fourth when the Skyhawks marched down the field and overcame a devastating series of events. Quarterback Dresser Winn moved the Skyhawks into the redzone before suffering a severe injury and was carted off the field, bringing Bachus back into the game after being dinged up after an earlier hit. Needing a big play after the emotional sequence, Bachus found Richie Griglione III for a three-yard touchdown to tie the game at 34-34.
Following a big three-and-out stand by the Skyhawk defense, UT Martin got the ball back with 5:55 to play and the length of the field to go. The Skyhawks would put together a methodical 11-play, 41-yard drive to march down the field to take up every second under the direction of third-string quarterback Stewart Howell who made his collegiate debut. UT Martin got the ball down to the Austin Peay 29-yard line to set up the 46-yard field goal attempt as Larco split the uprights as time expired to give the Skyhawks the 37-34 victory.
“This was a great team win,” UT Martin head coach Jason Simpson said. “We kept playing and kept fighting. Sometimes in conference games on the road, you have to muddy it up and find a way to win. I am really proud of how it happened. To make the field goal to win the game with a freshman kicker, for the third-team quarterback to come in and make a play for us to keep us in field goal range. It was a great team win. I am so sad for Dresser and I hope he is not in a lot of pain. Our kids wanted to win the game for him and we will make sure he gets a game ball.”
UT Martin tallied 362 yards of total offense on the afternoon which ranked as a season-high. Bachus completed 19-of-36 attempts for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Logan tallied 17 carries for 82 yards and one touchdown to pace the ground attack. Colton Dowell and Marqwell Odom both notched six receptions to lead the receiving core while Donnell Williams (85), Rodney Williams II (76) and Dowell (77) each eclipsed 75 receiving yards.
Linebacker John Ford led the team with nine tackles on the afternoon while Deven Sims registered eight stops. Defensive back Jay Woods paced the team with four pass breakups while Daylan Dotson blocked a point after attempt.
Prior to his injury, Winn enjoyed a nice afternoon in the punt game, tallying seven punts totaling 301 yards for an average of 43.0. He pinned two inside the 20 while booting one 67 yards which ranked tied for the 10th longest punt in school history.
Austin Peay’s Ellis completed 16-of-31 attempts for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Tanner rushed 14 times for 105 yards and one score while Wilson and Minter combined for eight receptions, 214 yards and three touchdowns in the receiving core.
UT Martin will play its final road contest of the season with an OVC matchup at Tennessee State on Sunday, March 28. Kickoff from Hale Stadium is scheduled for 2:00.