SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI (November 27) – The tale of the historical 2021 University of Tennessee at Martin football season gained at least another chapter Saturday as the Skyhawks came out on top of a hard-fought 32-21 victory at Missouri State in the first round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Ranked No. 13 after securing the program’s second Ohio Valley Conference championship, UT Martin (10-2) showed grit and determination in defeating the 10th ranked Missouri State squad – one of six Missouri Valley Football Conference teams in the 24-team postseason field.
The highly-acclaimed Skyhawk defense forced six turnovers – including a D’Carrious Stephens interception with 1:03 remaining that sealed the win. Oshae Baker and John Ford also recorded picks while David DuBose (two sacks), Austin Pickett (1.5 tackles for loss) and Shawn Shamburger (team-best seven tackles) made plays all over the field throughout the game.
Meanwhile, the duo of quarterback and Dresden native Dresser Winn (272 passing yards in his first start since October 20, 2018) and wide receiver Donnell Williams (seven receptions for a career-best 178 yards – the seventh-best single-game performance in school history) guided UT Martin offensively. They connected for the eventual game-winning 37-yard touchdown score with 3:36 to go.
Saturday’s win was the 100th in the career of Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson and the first playoff victory in the program’s FCS Era (since 1992). It marked UT Martin’s first postseason triumph since Nov. 14, 1988 – a span of 12,067 days.
“To go into a playoff game against a nationally ranked team that got a home game, these guys competed,” said Simpson, the 2021 OVC Coach of the Year. “So I was proud of them no matter how the game turned out. They took it upon themselves to keep competing and we were very fortunate to make one more play. As the head coach here for 16 years, we’ve had some good teams but this team has something special about them. This win was good for our program and good for our league – it’s our turn to carry the torch and fight for respect for the OVC.”
The Skyhawks advance to the NCAA FCS second round on Saturday, December 4 when they make the 1,650-mile trek to face No. 8 Montana State. Kickoff from Bozeman, Montana is set for 3 p.m. (CST).