No. 18 UT Martin opens OVC title defense against Lindenwood this weekend

 No. 18 UT Martin opens OVC title defense against Lindenwood this weekend

The nationally ranked UT Martin football program opens its 31st season in the Ohio Valley Conference as the reigning champion when playing host to the league’s newest member Lindenwood on Saturday at Hardin Graham Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6 :00 and will be broadcast on ESPN+.

The Skyhawks (1-2) enter league play looking to begin their quest to back-to-back OVC championships after claiming titles in both 2006 and 2021. UT Martin currently ranks No. 18 in the Stats Perform Top 25 heading into its Week 4 matchup while possessing a 77-47 record in league play since 2006 – sitting as the OVC’s active wins leader. Overall, the Skyhawks have finished .500 or better in conference play in 14 of the last 16 seasons – including five top-two finishes.

In the team’s most recent contest, UT Martin traveled to Football Bowl Subdivision member Boise State where the squad battled before ultimately falling 30-7. The Skyhawks were limited to just 152 yards of total offense – their lowest output since 2010 against Tennessee. Conversely, the defensive unit played a strong role by limiting their FBS foe to 327 yards while tallying three sacks and a turnover.

UT Martin boasts some of the top individual offensive performers in the league through the first three games of the season. Quarterback Dresser Winn ranks second in the OVC with 765 passing yards and seven touchdowns while boasting a pass efficiency of 147.9. Running back Zak Wallace leads the league with four rushing touchdowns while his 75.3 yards per game rank second. Wide receivers Colton Dowell and EJ Smoot have a league-best three touchdown receptions while Dowell sits in second with 104.0 receiving yards per game.

The linebacker duo of Rob Hicks (34) and John H. Ford II (33) sit first and second in the OVC by combining for 67 tackles on the season. Ford also sits as the OVC leader in sacks (3.0) and tackles for loss (4.5) while Daylan Dotson has a co-leading 3.0 sacks on the season. Meanwhile, cornerback Shaun Lewis has a league-best two interceptions and four passes defended.

Lindenwood (2-0) enters its first season as a Division I member after joining the OVC in February. Under the direction of head coach Jed Stugart, the Lions notched their first D1 win against Houston Baptist on the road by a narrow 21-20 margin while knocking off Keiser last week in dominating fashion 37-3. The Lions boast impressive numbers on the season by averaging 29.0 points and 440.0 yards per game while limiting opponents to just 11.5 points per game.

Quarterback Cade Brister leads the offense by completing 40-of-65 pass attempts for 558 yards and three touchdowns. Andrew Martin paces the ground attack with 108 yards and two touchdowns while the receiving tandem of Payton Rose (106.5 ypg) and Kobe Smith (78.5 ypg) have hauled in three touchdowns through the air. On defense, Tyrone Griffin has a team-best 20 tackles while Sterlin Williams boasts 2.5 sacks.

Saturday’s meeting marks the first matchup between the two programs.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ with John Hatler (play-by-play), Chris Brinkley (analyst) and Eddie Suiter (analyst) calling the action.

Fans can also tune into WCMT for the radio broadcast.