UT Martin knows challenge of facing SEC team

University of Tennessee-Martin coach Jason Simpson brings his team into The Swamp on Saturday to face the Gators for the first time. [L.G. Patterson/Associated Press]

Although UT Martin is playing Florida for the first time, head coach Jason Simpson should have a sense of familiarity as he brings the Skyhawks into The Swamp on Saturday night.

One, he knows the challenge of facing an SEC team on the road, the Skyhawks having played at Missouri last season and at Ole Miss the year before.

Two, he’s coached against Dan Mullen and his staff multiple times when Mullen was the head coach at Mississippi State.

He has a full understanding of what to expect.

“We’ve got two SEC games this year, with Kentucky and Florida,” Simpson said on the Ohio Valley Conference coaches teleconference Tuesday. “And last year we went to Missouri and the year before that Ole Miss. We usually average about two a year, so we’re kind of used to it. It’s a great deal ($500,000 payday from UF).

“I’m trying to make sure we take every player that’s on our roster from Florida, bring them down there and let them experience their home-state university. The kids are certainly looking forward to it from a standpoint they work hard, they deserve to play in these type of venues.

“I wish I could provide 85,000 fans every week, but it doesn’t always work out like that. They’ll get to enjoy this Saturday.”

Past Saturdays in the SEC have not been very enjoyable for UT Martin in terms of results. It fell to Missouri 51-14 last season and to Ole Miss 45-23 in 2017.

Saturday may be a little bit of a different challenge. The Gators are ranked eighth in the country and The Swamp has a reputation for being one of the toughest SEC stadiums to play in for opposing teams.

“I don’t know if this group has actually played in (a stadium) as large as The Swamp,” Simpson said. “It’s an uphill battle, no doubt.

“Over the years, I have learned something. On our good teams in games like this, especially early in the season, you play well, you stay in the game, you fight. That you do benefit from.”

Simpson is familiar with Mullen and his staff, but not with UF defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

“I’ve played against Coach Mullen’s staff two, three times,” he said. “But this is the first time Coach Grantham has been with him as the coordinator I’ve coached against.

“Very multiple. You can’t ever outnumber them. Good players that make you work schematically to try and get a hat on a hat. Very good defensive scheme and very well coached.”

Florida’s overall performance in a 24-20 victory over Miami in the opener made quite an impression on Simpson.

“They were good last year (on defense), but what catches my eye is the athleticism this year,” he said. “The 10 sacks, it’s hard to take your eyes off of that. Good players and they’ve got a difficult scheme on defense.

“On offense, there are a lot of guys that can score. They can make big plays. We don’t see this week in and week out. We’ll put a game plan together and come down and play as hard as we can.”

It’s a difficult challenge for the Skyhawks. But regardless of the outcome, Simpson said his team, especially his young players, will benefit from the experience.

“It’s an opportunity for individual growth players can make,” he said. “Just traveling well and learning how to do your walkthrough and your pregame. How it’s supposed to be.

“Keeping your composure on the sideline in a hostile environment. Those are things our team will grow from.”


Who: Tennessee-Martin (1-0) vs. Florida (1-0)

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium


Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850


    • Nah Sparky — now that the Gators are out of the Top-10 (hey, somebody had to make room for Notre Dame to move up, didn’t they?), I’m sure the Sun will no doubt have UT-Martin favored over us before Saturday. They were just previewing them as tough-as-nails and Dooley already told us they didn’t deserve the ranking anyway. I’ll bet nobody even shows up, we should just forfeit now. 🤓

      • I will be there, 6 and looking forward to celebrating George Edmondson’s legacy and traditional leading of 2-Bits! I will be looking forward to unveiling my new orange t-shirt with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on the front with a Mike Campbell Flying V guitar in the toothy mouth of a Florida alligator and “I won’t Back Down” on the back of the shirt. Oh, and after honoring Mr. 2-Bits, I plan to stay for the game.

        My hope for the game is that we play a clean penalty, turnover, and injury free ball game and run up the score enough to see some backup players get some experience, particularly Trask and EJ.

  1. Need to get good looks at Trask and Jones. We’ll need them ready as I feel we have zero chance vs UGly with Franks at the QB. I wish I was wrong but Franks simply isn’t cerebral which is a must to be top level.

    • I think if we can get the Franks from the last 4 games last season, we can compete with the Dawgs. I’m hopeful that he can do it again, but agree that Trask and EJ need to be ready. You’re obviously right about the mental capabilities, and while I’m sure he’s smart enough, the question is whether he can think and react fast enough. Hopefully we won’t have to take a loss to find out. Btw, you gonna reload the old school logo?

      • (Jimi Hendrix)
        Hey Joe, where ya goin with that, gum in your hands….
        I’m goin to stick it on my ol ladies back, you know I caught her messin round with another man….
        I’m afraid if I reload the logo they’ll start asking me for sixty bucks for four months. Much as I love Gator sports, I don’t live in Gainesville and am not interested in local news there, only the Gators.
        We were competitive with the leg humpers last year until Franks did his Franks thing with the curious turnovers. We would not recover against the dawgs like we did vs scUM as they are much better. Franks STILL takes sacks he shouldn’t, he STILL leaves the pocket early, he STILL doesn’t see the entire field, he STILL can’t hit a man on the run (not often anyway). I LOVE his heart, he leaves it on the field. BUT, so do most QBs (not Grier). I do have confidence Mullen will play the QB who gives us the best chance to win, his job depends on it, and a bunch of money incentives. But franks had way too many oops moments vs the coCains for a redshirt Jr.
        BTW, Mrs Dooley STILL swallows.

        • Where have you been, Joe Dimaggio? (Gelco)
          — Simon and Gator-6
          c. 1967

          I’m glad you guys are on board about the seriousness of the QB problem.

          Now, what’s it gonna take to get you back here, Gelco? Don’t make me call you in the middle of the night, announce myself as Guido-6, and make you an offer you can’t refuse!

          • Hey 6, I did call you. Wanted to chat gator junk.
            Maybe if the host of this board would read this, I’d contribute a smaller sum to be able to chat here, but not the asking price from the Gville Sun to be fully immersed.

            I think we should all go to Florida/Georgia this year. This is one game I go to every year. Have it wired, have the same location everytime, I always get there early, have a killer tailgate. We park about 1.5 miles from the stadium, and it is truly unique, a half and half game of this magnitude.

            How great to see you, Joe, Sparky, Daz and bark back at the dawgs. BTW, it is pretty mellow, never been close to a fight. They handle themselves well, even if they consider themselves the fashion police. One year many years ago, my wife was preggers, and wore a bluejean skirt, we were walking by the inbred UGly females and they’ kind of cough into their hands “bluejean shors, bluejean shorts”. Mind numbing.

    • With Franks, what we see is what we’ll get till he moves on to the next level. As you said gelco, he doesn’t have the mental agility necessary to go through his progressions and get rid of the ball to the open receiver in 3-4 seconds, regardless of WHERE on the field that receiver may be found.

      If Franks gets the run support he got over the final 4 games last season, he’ll be OK. On the other hand, if he gets the run support he got vs. the Canes, he’ll be erratic. I’m gonna go out on a limb here now and predict Franks will NEVER place the Gator team on his back and carry it to victory the way Hurts did with Oklahoma this weekend. Thankfully, with that Gator D this season, he shouldn’t have to.

      Franks’ AVERAGE per game performance as a passer over the last 4 games of 2018 was a rather unremarkable 16 CMP in 24 ATT for 216 YDS with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. His highest passing yardage (274 YDS) came vs. powerhouse Idaho. That’s right, Idaho!

      On the other hand, the Gators AVERAGED 277 YDS rushing per game over those last 4 games, with a high of 367 YDS vs. USCe. When the running game is that good, throwing ZERO interceptions can make an average QB like Franks look like a star!

      • You mean like UGA’s offense makes Fromm look? Fromm has only thrown for over 300 yards in a game twice. He’s never thrown for more than 2800 yards, but is a Heisman contender in a lot of people’s eyes. Pretty hilarious if you ask me. I wonder how he’d look leading an offense like Tenn or Ole Miss?

        • Hey Joe, at least Fromm has has a couple of 300 yard passing games before being considered a Heisman contender. Franks has ZERO 300 yard passing games over two full seasons and was also considered a “dark horse” Heisman candidate by some geniuses in the media before reality paid him another visit vs. the Canes.