University of Tennessee-Martin head coach Jason Simpson, a South Jones product, will lead the Skyhawks against Ole Miss today (Saturday) at 11. (Photo by UT-Martin)

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Ellisville native to lead UT-Martin against Ole Miss

By Dale McKee

sportsreporter@leader-call.com

Ellisville native Jason Simpson will bring his University of Tennessee-Martin squad to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium today (Saturday) to do battle with Ole Miss. Both teams enter the game with 1-0 marks. Dozens of Simpson’s family members and friends from Jones County will be in attendance for the contest.

Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Simpson is in his 12th year as head football coach of the Skyhawks, and his team is coming off a 36-0 victory over Clarion. His career record at UT-Martin is 73-54.

“I was proud of the defense against Clarion. Any time you get a shutout, I don’t care who you’re playing, it’s something to hang your hat on,” said Simpson.

The former Southern Miss baseball player said his team’s offense was sloppy in the win over Clarion, but the rainy conditions contributed to some of that play.

Simpson has high hopes for his Skyhawks in the 2017 season.

“I think we have a good team. We have 24 seniors, and we also have our leader back in quarterback Troy Cook,” said Simpson.

Cook is a fifth-year senior who started 10 games last season and threw for 2,321 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Cook, a transfer from Florida State, played in the last meeting between the teams in 2015. He completed three passes in the 76-3 loss to the Rebels.

Quality players surround Cook as he is one of four all-Ohio Valley Conference pre-season selections. UT Martin was picked to finish second in the conference preseason poll behind Jacksonville State.

Simpson brought his team to Hattiesburg back in 2007 and has also led the Skyhawks against other SEC teams. They have played Mississippi State twice and Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Auburn once each.

“The football experience at UT-Martin is a little different than playing in the SEC each week,” Simpson said. “The players here would rather play these types of schools. We could schedule some non-FBS teams, but these are the schools they have followed since they were kids and watched on TV each week. They will have great memories of playing in these venues.”

UTM’s lone win against an FBS school was its opener at Memphis in 2012 when a late field goal gave the Skyhawks a 20-17 win.

Simpson is fully aware of what his team is up against today in Oxford.

“They are very impressive on offense. The have a good tempo to their offense. Great quarterback, great wideouts and a huge offensive line,” said the former South Jones quarterback. “They have some big-time play makers.”

Simpson, who also played football at Mississippi State, says he is really impressed with Wayne County product Benito Jones. “He is very talented,” said Simpson.