Following last Saturday’s annual Navy and White Spring Game, University of Tennessee at Martin head football coach Jason Simpson hope that the team’s offense would take the next step over the final week of the spring practice. The offense certainly took that step and some as the first team offense defeated the first team defense 46-24 in the final scrimmage of the spring.
The Skyhawks completed Practice #15 with a strong final scrimmage, laying the foundation for an important offseason leading up to fall camp in early August. Over the course of the past five weeks, the Skyhawks have focused not only on looking at new starting quarterback options to lead the squad come September, but also to continue strides within one of the top programs in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“The roles were reversed today,” said Simpson. “It was good to see that one side isn’t dominating the other. I wasn’t pleased with the offense the other day and I wasn’t pleased with the defense today. Regardless of those things, it was a successful spring. I really like the growth that we’ve shown while giving guys who haven’t played in the big games the practice reps they need. Spring is a great time of year and we love it, but now we are ready to move ahead to the next phase of this program.”
After combining for just 296 yards of total offense in the team’s spring game just five days ago, the Skyhawks exploded offensively for 554 yards on Thursday afternoon. Splitting first-team reps once again, Troy Cook and Gunner Holcombe posted solid afternoons under center. Cook completed 15-of-21 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Holcombe was efficient as well, connecting on 12-of-18 attempts for 191 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Local product Kyle Akin also went 3-for-3 for 54 yards and one touchdown.
While the quarterback battle is still in the air, both signal callers benefited all spring from the standout performance of Caylon Weathers. Weathers tallied 11 receptions for 160 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Kyle Kerrick also posted several big plays, tallying five catches for 107 yards and one touchdown. Ben Axline made the most of four catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Najee Ray and Jaylon Moore also tallied touchdown receptions on the day for their respective squads.
The Skyhawks saw running back Jaimiee Bowe lead the team with 30 yards on three carries while tallying the team’s lone rushing touchdown. Jeffrey Moore ranked second on the team in rushing yards, tallying 21 yards on four attempts while Ty Brown (18 yards) and Bryce Warner (13 yards) each averaged over four yards per carry.
On the defensive side of the ball, the trio of Andrew Horton-Martindale, Rakeem Battle and Malik Harris paced the team with five tackles each. As a whole, 25 different players notched tackles on the day while 13 Skyhawks tallied multiple tackles. The Skyhawks combined for six sacks on the day with Horton-Martindale, Harris, Joseph Jones, Chris Turner, Kevin Prather, Jr., Keith Jones and Julian Thompson-Clay also making their presence known in the backfield. Trey Warren one of the team’s turnovers with an interception while Prather, Jr. recovered a fumble.
Specialist Mitch Mersman worked both sides of the ball, tallying seven punts for 264 yards while averaging 37.7 yards per punt. Mersman also converted 2-of-3 field goal attempts, knocking down attempts from 42 and 35 yards while making five point after attempts.
Big plays of the afternoon included a 20-yard touchdown from Holcombe to Kerrick, a 24-yard connection from Cook to Axline, a 16-yard rushing touchdown by Bowe and a 26-yard connection from Cook to Weathers. Other scores include a 35-yard connection from Akin to Ray, a seven-yard completion from Cook to Moore and a final goal-line strike from Holcombe to Weathers to conclude the day.