Boise State Football: First Look At The UT Martin Skyhawks
The Broncos will host the defending Ohio Valley Conference champions on the blue this September.
A tougher-than-expected test?
Boise State Football: First Look at 2022 Non-conference Opponents
After opening the 2022 season with back-to-back contests on the road, the Boise State Broncos will head home in Week 3 to host the UT Martin Skyhawks in Week 3.
Unlike the last time these teams met in 2013, the Skyhawks might be a little better prepared to hang around after having one of the best overall seasons in program history last year. While they still figure to face long odds in upending the Broncos on the blue, the Skyhawks might surprise if they’re taken lightly.
Location: Martin, Tennessee
Conference: Ohio Valley
Series History: Boise State leads the all-time series, 1-0.
2021 Record: 10-3 (5-1 OVC)
Head Coach: Jason Simpson (17th year, 100-80 overall). The Skyhawks have rarely been down and out with the longest-tenured coach in the Ohio Valley Conference in charge — UT Martin has just five losing seasons since he took the job in 2006 — but last year was a landmark campaign by the program’s historical standards. They clinched its first FCS playoff bid since that 2006 season and beat Missouri State for its first-ever playoff win, clinching just the third ten-win season in its history and the first outright OVC title ever.
John H. Ford II, LB
If you’re looking for football names, you’d be hard pressed to find one better than Ford II. If you’re looking for players with talent to match, even more so. He’s been named to the preseason Buck Buchanan Award watch list as one of the FCS level’s top defenders after landing a spot on the all-OVC first-team defense in 2021 with 88 total tackles, five tackles for loss, and four interceptions.
Dresser Winn, QB
Winn wasn’t the Skyhawks starting quarterback in 2021, but he stepped into a very difficult situation when incumbent Keon Howard was injured in the team’s first FCS playoff game against Missouri State and held his own, completing 23-of-43 passes for 272 yards and two touchdowns while leading a late rally to defeat the Bears.
— UT Martin Athletics (@UTMSports) November 28, 2021
Deven Sims, S
Sims was one of three Skyhawks recently named to the STATS FCS All-American, landing a spot on the third-team defense after a year in which he earned a second straight nod on the all-OVC first team, as well. In 2021, he led UT Martin with 93 tackles and also had six tackles for loss, one sack, and one interception.
Zak Wallace, RB
Wallace came on strong in his first year of action and finished 2021 by earning first-team all-conference and freshman All-American recognition. As the primary complement to Peyton Logan, he ran for 807 yards and a team-high 15 touchdowns, racking up an overall PFF grade of 80.3 that ranked third among OVC running backs.
FB: Zak Wallace finds the endzone from 14 yards out for his 15th rushing touchdown of the 2021 campaign! @UTM_FOOTBALL takes a 26-24 lead near the end of the third quarter at Missouri State! pic.twitter.com/8tV28y5Jls
— UT Martin Athletics (@UTMSports) November 27, 2021
Matthan Hatchie, C
Hatchie has a pretty convincing case as the best center in the OVC and, more broadly, as one of the best offensive linemen anywhere in the FCS. 2021 marked his first appearance on the all-conference first-team offense after playing 892 snaps, according to PFF, leading the conference at the position with a 73.7 overall grade, and allowing just one sack in 362 pass attempts.
The Skyhawks offense under coordinator Kevin Bannon didn’t have many weaknesses in 2021, averaging 5.78 yards per play thanks mainly to a powerful ground game that finished ninth overall with 5.33 yards per carry and was responsible for 32 touchdowns, tied for sixth-most in the FCS. While most of the major contributors to that attack are back for 2022, there are still some questions to be addressed.
Chief among them? The quarterback situation, where Winn and Georgia State transfer Cornelious Brown will battle to replace Keon Howard. Brown played well for GSU back in 2020, accounting for 2,579 yards of total offense and 24 total touchdowns during the Panthers’ COVID season, but he lost the QB1 role after a pair of lackluster starts last year.
UT Martin also has to identify some new complements for Wallace in the running game, as he’s likely to take on more work following Peyton Logan’s departure. It’s a group that could definitely grow together, though: Jordan Castleberry (30 carries, 154 yards, one TD) is a redshirt sophomore and the roster features six different freshmen. That’s also true of the passing game, as well, where the Skyhawks must replace their five of their top six pass catchers, as Colton Dowell (22 catches, 398 yards, two TDs) is the lone holdover from 2021.
That may not be a huge deal, though, if the offensive line plays as it did a year ago. In addition to opening lanes for the running game, Hatchie, guard Gavin Olson, and tackle Lamar Jordan were all preseason all-conference selections after leading a unit that finished eighth among all FCS teams in sacks allowed.
The UT Martin defense was rock solid last year, finishing 56th among all FCS teams in allowing 5.48 yards per play while generating 23 takeaways and allowing only 25 points per game.
Ford II and Sims will lead the charge again, but they’ll have plenty of help going into this fall: Safety Oshea Baker had 11 starts at both cornerback and safety and picked up 68 tackles, nine pass breakups, and four interceptions, while JACK Eyabi Anoma led the team with six sacks and 9.5 TFLs. However, those two are the only two returning defenders who had two or more sacks in 2021, so finding athletes to retool the pass rush is almost certainly a top priority for Simpson and defensive coordinator Chris Polizzi.
After last year’s breakthrough, the Skyhawks aren’t likely to be intimidated by the atmosphere on the blue turf, though it remains to be seen whether the visitors’ defense will have what it takes to slow down a Boise State offense that will wield, one way or another, superior talent. UT Martin might be able to hang around for a while, but this shouldn’t be close in the end.
Boise State 42, UT Martin 20