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Football drops opener to Broncos, 0-42

Skyhawks look ahead to TSU for OVC win

The Skyhawk football team lost it’s season opener last Thursday night against the Western Michigan University Bulldogs, 0-42. Mistakes early on in the game made the score more lopsided than it should have been.

An interception by WMU with 11:12 left in the first quarter led to a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs the only points they would need in the game.

On the following first down, junior quarterback Brady Wahlberg was sacked for a 9-yard loss. The Skyhawks could only rush for seven on the next two plays, forcing a punt on the fourth down.

The 39-yard punt was intercepted by Bronco Greg Jennings who ran it in 53-yards for the touchdown. The extra point was good, bringing the score to 0-14, with 8:35 left in the quarter.

The next series of plays found the Skyhawks holding possession for just shy of five minutes and picking up three first-downs, but unable to convert a fourth and six.

The Broncos wasted no time in the second quarter, scoring on a 63-yard complete pass by WMU quarterback Blayne Baggett and successful point after touchdown, making it 0-21 with only 3:13 gone off the clock.

On UTM’s second drive of the quarter, the Skyhawks picked up two first downs, but had four incomplete passes and unsuccessfully attempted going for a fourth and three.

WMU scored for the fourth time with 5:38 left in the half after a 30-yard pass by Baggett put the Broncos at first and goal. The Skyhawks’ next drive resulted in only three plays for a loss of seven yards, giving the Broncos enough time for one more touchdown in the half, which came with 2:42 left on the clock. The TD and extra point put the score at 0-35.

The half ended when the Skyhawks missed a field goal attempt from the 25-yard line wide left, after an 8-play drive for 68 yards, which would be UTM’s most successful drive of the night.

Possession in the third flip-flopped fairly evenly until 5:31 left quarter, when WMU scored on a second and 10, 14-yard pass, making the score 0-42.

The third quarter ended almost identically to the second, except this time it was the Broncos who missed a field goal from 49-yards out, wide left.

The four quarter found the Skyhawks able to hold the Broncos scoreless, with sophomore defensive end David Gilmore ending an 11-play, 39-yard drive with his first career interception.

UTM had only three drives in the last quarter for a net total of 13 yards.

In his ‘04 season debut, Wahlberg was held by WMU to just a rushing net of 5 yards; the team was held to 86. Wahlberg also picked up 136 yards passing, and was sacked twice for a loss of 11 yards.

Leading the defensive attack was sophomore linebacker Markeseo Jackson, who had 16 tackles and one sack for seven yards.

Sophomore defensive lineman Will Grant and senior linebacker John Castillo each had nine tackles. Junior cornerback Jason Coleman and junior Andre Plummer both had one sack for losses of 11 and six yards, respectively.

The stand-out player of the game was freshman tailback Donald Chapman, who rushed for 77 net yards in the game, which was the second highest for both teams, being beaten out by Bronco Trovon Riley with 85.

“Overall, I was pleased with our effort,” said UTM head coach Matt Griffin. “Our kids played hard, but unfortunately we made too many mistakes against a good football team.”

Even the WMU head coach was impressed with the Skyhawks effort. “Tennessee-Martin did a great job tonight,” said Coach Gary Darnell. “They are in the process of trying to rebuild a program, a position that I have been in before.”

The Skyhawks record stands at 0-1 as they head towards their home opener Thursday, Sept. 9, against the Tigers of Tennessee State University.

The Tigers are coming of a 42-7 victory over Alabama A&M last Saturday at the John Merrit Classic in Nashville. Last season, TSU defeated UTM 41-10 at the Coliseum in both teams’ OVC opener.

The Tigers limited the Skyhawks to scoring all of their points in the second quarter, including a 46-yard field goal coming as time expired in the half.

Former quarterback Bart Browder threw for 170 yards on 16 complete passes against the Tigers.

Wahlberg was out due to an elbow injury he received in the first week of the season. This will be his first time to face the Tigers as starting quarterback.

The game will be part of the entertainment during the Tennessee Soybean Festival.

Pre-game festivities include the Community Tailgate Picnic sponsored Sodexho Dining Services which starts at 5 p.m. outside the gates of Hardy M. Graham Stadium.

Entertainment before and during the game will include the Peacemakers, a singing group made of Memphis police officers, UTM and TSU marching bands, WLJT’s Clifford the Big Red Dog, the Alfred and Seymore Comedians, balloon makers, the Team Rootberry Juggling Show and much more.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.