Kentucky hosts the University of Tennessee-Martin Skyhawks this weekend, where a victory can propel the Cats to another bowl game. Getting to that 13th game is a big deal for everyone on the team, but especially seniors like Jamar “Boogie” Watson, who have never not made a bowl game in their time in Lexington.
“That’s pretty much all I know,” he said. “I don’t really know the season ending after the 12th game, so I’m excited to keep that going.”
While the level of competition has been higher for the Cats throughout the season, they cannot afford to overlook anybody with only two chances left for that important sixth win. And the Skyhawks are no pushover, falling just outside of the FCS Coaches Poll Top 25 in its latest rankings. Here’s who you need to know:
Jason Simpson is the longest tenured head coach in the Ohio Valley Conference. Now in his 14th season, he has led to Skyhawks to an 87-72 record in his time there, including a 69-42 mark inside the OVC.
UT-Martin has played one other game against an SEC opponent this year, which came back in September, Then-No.11 Florida defeated them 45-0 in Gainesville.
John Bachus III has been under center for the Skyhawks for the season, having all but seven of the team’s passing attempts. He has thrown for 2,392 yards, 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing close to 57 percent of his passes. Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White applauded the deep ball throwing ability of Bachus III earlier this week.
“He’s a really good placer of the football,” White said. “He puts good loft on it, so we’re gonna have to go up and compete for those balls.”
Tight end Colton Dowell and receiver Jaylon Moore are the prime deep-ball candidates. Each averages over 18.5 yards per reception, and they’ve combined for nine touchdowns. Dowell will likely be targeted more often – he has 35 catches compared to just 15 for Moore – but both can get behind the defense and make an impact.
The other main member of the UT-Martin passing game is a possession-type player. Terry Williams leads the team with 50 catches, but averages just a little more than 10 yards per catch. He has three receiving scores on the year. Bachus III will more than likely be looking for one of these three each time he drops back to throw. The Kentucky secondary knows they have to be focused to handle the talent each of them brings to the field.
“Great receiving core. Number One (Moore) makes a lot of plays, lot of deep balls,” cornerback Jordan Griffin said. “Number Six (Williams) is a great player, and Number Fifteen (Dowell) of course is a great player as well.”
Peyton Logan and Jaimiee Bowe provide a lightning-and-thunder combination in the running game. Each has touched the ball more than 90 times, while Logan averages 7.2 yards per carry as the explosive back compared to Bowe’s 3.5 in his more traditional between-the-tackles role. The duo has 10 rushing touchdowns. Bachus III is also a steady contributor with 85 carries on the year.
The Skyhawk defense has big-time playmakers across all levels, with six players recording over 60 tackles. Linebacker TJ Jefferson anchors the unit, leading the team with 91 tackles. Safety JaQuez Jenkins ranks second in the category with 89.
Jefferson and defensive lineman Austin Pickett each have 4.5 sacks to pace the unit. Jefferson’s fellow linebacker Cecil Cherry has four. To add to the stats, defensive back DaVonte Maura has 11 pass breakups, and will look to get a hand on the ball when Kentucky puts in the air.
Kentucky and Tennessee-Martin play at Kroger Field this Saturday at 3:30. The game can be viewed on the SEC Network and the ESPN app.