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Miller represents Demopolis at UTM

TAMPA, Fla. —- The public address announcer at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa referred to junior Dontrell Miller by his nickname – DJ – throughout Saturday night’s football opener. Those references must have provided comfort and motivation for the 5-8, 175-pounder from Demopolis.

The undersized safety led The University of Tennessee at Martin defense with 11 solo tackles, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a 33-yard interception return in a 56-7 loss to the University of South Florida.

“Dontrell had a big game for us,” said Jason Simpson, the Skyhawks’ third-year head coach. “That fumble recovery for a touchdown was a big play that we needed.”

Miller’s stat line against No. 19 USF mirrored his effort a year ago in the season opener at Southern Miss where he also recorded 11 tackles.

“I was real proud of him (Dontrell),” Simpson said. “We know he’s a good player, we’ve just got to fine tune other ones with him that who can make plays like he does.”

On the positive side, the Skyhawks escaped the Sunshine state – before Hurricane Gustav wreaked havoc; without an injury to a player in the football game; and a couple of school records.

Skyhawk senior punter Adam Ivey set a new school record for most punting yardage in a single game (467), and the Skyhawks played in front of 48,058 people, the biggest crowd ever to see the Skyhawks play.

South Florida set a new school record for most points scored in a single quarter as it rattled off 28 points in the first 15 minutes of the game. At the half, the Bulls led 35-0.

USF starting quarterback Matt Grothe completed six-of-eight passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

While USF execute throughout the game, the Skyhawks struggled on offense, defense and on special teams. The offense recorded 59 yards of rushing and 38 passing yards, a total of 97 yards on 54 plays. The defense gave up 520 total yards, 300 rushing yards and 220 passing yards. Special teams failed to generate field position and allowed USF to block a punt that resulted in a touchdown with 11:39 to play in the game.

“It wasn’t just the offense, it was the defense and special teams as well,” Simpson said. “Let’s face it we were overmatched and we didn’t help ourselves. We missed a lot of tackles, didn’t block and didn’t catch.”

The Skyhawks will return to action at 4:30 p.m., Saturday when they host Baker University in Hardy M. Graham Stadium. The Skyhawks will also host Concordia (Selma) at 6 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 11.

“Now we have to get back,” Simpson said. “We’ve got two games in 13 days and we’ve got to try to make a lot of improvements.”