Mississippi State’s 2014 non-conference football schedule is complete with the addition of UT Martin, athletics director Scott Stricklin confirmed today. The teams are scheduled to meet Nov. 8, 2014, in Starkville.
Stricklin said he’s not sure where the two sides stand as far as a signed contract, but there is an agreement to play, and UT Martin has the game listed on the 2014 schedule on its website. It will be the second meeting in four years between MSU and the Skyhawks, who are members of the Ohio Valley Conference. Stricklin said MSU had reached an agreement with another out-of-state FCS school to play in 2014, but that fell through because of a conflict with dates.
“Kind of late notice here in the last two months looking for another FCS school to replace that one. We sent out a bunch of feelers, and they’re just one of the ones that the date and everything else worked out,” Stricklin said. “Their head coach went to school here, and we have a connection with coach (Jason) Simpson.”
Simpson, who’s 45-34 in seven seasons at UT Martin, attended MSU before graduating from Southern Miss. He led the Skyhawks to an 8-3 mark in 2012.
“Any time you can be able to drive and play an SEC school, that’s a great experience for our team,” Simpson said. “I certainly appreciate Scott and coach (Dan) Mullen allowing us the chance to come back.”
In the teams’ first meeting, MSU beat UT Martin on Nov. 5, 2011, by a score of 55-17 on homecoming. Simpson is hoping to give the Bulldogs a better game next time around, and his program certainly seems to be heading upward. The Skyhawks beat Memphis last season, 20-17, for the program’s first win over an FBS school. In 2013, UTM will play Boise State and Memphis, and it has scheduled Kentucky for 2014.
“I’ve been head coach here going on eight years, we’ve got the second-highest winning percentage in the league in those eight years. We feel like we’ve got a solid foundation,” Simpson said.
State will open the 2014 season at home versus Southern Miss. The other non-conference games are against UAB and South Alabama. MSU is still seeking FCS foes for the 2015 and ’16 seasons.