Four different losing streaks were ended in Saturday’s homecoming game at Hardy M. Graham Stadium, when the UT Martin Skyhawks defeated the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, 30-23, in overtime.
Not only was the four game losing streak the Skyhawks went into the game with ended, but so was the 43 game OVC losing streak, which dates back to 1996. Also broken was the seven-year losing streak to Tennessee Tech and the nine-year streak since the last time UTM won a homecoming game.
Saturday’s contest started with Tennessee Tech jumping out to an early lead, scoring just two minutes into the first quarter. The score remained at 6-0 until halfway through the second quarter, when Tech tailback freshman Derek White rushed 87 yards for the touchdown. The point after touchdown was good, bringing the score to 13-0.
With 3:30 left in the half, sophomore cornerback Jason Coleman had a 35-yard interception return followed up by a 10-yard rush by junior tailback Andrew Staten for the touchdown. After the extra point, the Skyhawks had decreased the Eagles’ lead to just six points.
The Skyhawks managed to hold the score steady at 13-7 throughout almost the entire third quarter. But, with 1:55 left, Tech quarterback Darrius Mohn went for a first down on a fourth and nine and completed a 23 yard pass to wide out Derek Lee.
The Golden Eagles increased their lead to 20-7 two plays later on a five-yard rush by tailback Jason Ballard and a successful extra-point attempt by kicker Josh Foster.
After an early 23-yard field goal by Foster to bring he score to 23-7, the fourth quarter heroics by the Skyhawks began. Sophomore quarterback Brady Wahlberg started a drive that consisted of eight first downs and ended with a touchdown by Staten and a successful two point conversion by sophomore wide receiver Orenthe Taylor, bringing the score to 23-15.
The Golden Eagles were unable to make any progress on their next drive, only having three plays for a loss of one yard.
With 3:26 left in regulation, Wahlberg launched an impressive 78-yard drive with nine first downs and eight complete passes, including one to Taylor for the touchdown. After another two-point conversion, the score was tied at 23-23, sending the game into overtime.
Tennessee Tech won the coin toss and opted to play defense first, giving Wahlberg the ball on the 25-yard line. He completed a four-yard pass to Andrew Staten and then, on the next play, rushed 21 yards for the touchdown. The extra point attempt was good, giving the Skyhawks their first lead of the day at 23-30.
On the next drive, the Skyhawk defense kept the Eagles from scoring, with three sacks by sophomore defensive end Andre Plummer, sophomore defensive tackle Joseph Threats and freshman linebacker John Castillo. The game ended when Tech quarterback Mohn threw an incomplete pass to wide out Lee, who was tackled by Skyhawk cornerback Jason Coleman.
“I don’t know what to say,” said junior defensive tackle Phillip Ezell. “We played our hearts out and knew we had to stop them in overtime to get the win. That’s what we went out there and did.”
Leading the defense was John Castillo with 10 tackles, including one sack for eight yards. Freshman cornerback Rayvon Sims also had nine tackles and sophomore cornerback Russell Gambrell had nine tackles including one sack for 11 yards. Andre Plummer had the most sacks on the day with four for a total loss of 18 yards and six other tacklesduring the game.
Quarterback Brady Wahlberg had a stellar performance, coming off his absence after an injury during the first game of the season sidelined him for four games. Wahlberg racked up 288 total yards on the day, with 100 of them rushing. He received the OVC Player of the Week award, was honored as the national I-AA offensive player of the week by The Sports Network, the division’s most widely recognized information service, and was named one of four NCAA I-AA National Offensive Players of the Week by Don Hansen’s Football Gazette.
Because of the magnitude of the Skyhawks’ victory on Saturday, the UTM homecoming game against Tennessee Tech was named the College Sporting News I-AA Milestone Game of the Week.
The Skyhawks improved their record to 2-4 for the season, with their next match-up coming Saturday, Oct. 11 against Jacksonville State. This game will be the first time the two teams have met each other in 12 years, with the Gamecocks leading the series all-time series, 20-4. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Paul Snow Memorial Stadium in Jacksonville, Ala.