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Slow start hampers Govs in 56-33 loss at MTSU

Austin Peay State University GovernorsMurfreesboro, TN – Despite scoring a school-record 33 points against a Football Bowl Subdivision program, Austin Peay State University was unable to overcome a 28-3 first-half deficit as it fell to Middle Tennessee, 56-33, Saturday night in Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium.

The loss drops Austin Peay to 1-1 on the season, the same mark of the Blue Raiders.

It was a game that saw Middle Tennessee own the start and end of the contest with Austin Peay owning in between. The Governors offensively and defensively got off to a slow start. Middle Tennessee took the opening kickoff and drove it 78 yards in 13 plays to get off to an early 7-0 barely three minutes into the game.

After the ensuing kickoff, the Govs took over at its 32-yard line and on the second play from scrimmage MTSU’s Darin Davis grabbed a Jake Ryan errant pass and raced 59 yards for the score to give the Blue Raiders a quick 14-0 lead.

Jeremy Ross returns a fumble for a touchdown. ( Courtesy: Keith Dorris/Dorris Photography )
Jeremy Ross returns a fumble for a touchdown. ( Courtesy: Keith Dorris/Dorris Photography )

Austin Peay responded with a 28-yard field goal by Stephen Stansell with 5:08 left in the first quarter but Middle Tennessee scored twice to open the second quarter for a 28-3 lead.

But the Governors clawed their way back before half’s end. Behind the sophomore Ryan the Govs started to find their offensive rhythm. It culminated with him connecting with fellow sophomore Devin Stark for a 28-yard score, making it a 28-10 contest and giving the Govs some much-needed life.

Middle Tennessee, which rolled up 654 yards total yards, bounced back with another score, this one with Benjamin Cunningham slicing in from five yards out to make it a 35-10 contest.

APSU made a strong attempt to answer, However, with the play’s timing thrown off, Stansell missed a 46-yard field goal with 34 seconds left.

MTSU, instead of running out the first-half clock, attempted to take advantage of the missed field goal but Jeff Murphy’s pass was intercepted by Govs’ freshman Sheldon Wade with 19 seconds left at the 50.

The Governors elected to attempt to score one more time before half ended and it worked. Ryan, who threw for a personal best 224 yards, completed a seven-yard pass across the middle to Ashlon Adams before hooking up with Murfreesboro native Scott Thomas to the Middle Tennessee 19, a 24-yard gain. With eight seconds left, Ryan dropped back and delivered a TD pass to Adrian Mines to the right side of the end zone. The Governors trailed just 35-17 at halftime.

The Governors opened the second half by driving the ball 67, the big play being a Ryan-to-Stark pass to the one-yard line. But the Govs were unable to punch it in, settling for a 20-yard Stansell field goal.

On the next Middle Tennessee possession, the Governors finally were able to get a defensive stop as star runner Phillip Tanner, who finished with 127 yards rushing, was tackled short of a first down on a fourth-and-one at the Govs’ 40.

Ryan White
Ryan White

On the first play, tailback Ryan White, the OVC’s only 1000-yard rusher a year ago, burst up the middle and raced 55 yards before being hauled down from behind at the five-yard. A gassed White was replaced by Terrence Holt, who was a first-team All-OVC running with White a year ago, knifed in from five yards out. All of a sudden it was a 35-27 contest.

However, the Governors could not get another much-needed stop. The Blue Raiders drove 75 yards in 10 plays, with a spectacular 35-yard tiptoe sideline reception by Garrett Andrews at the one-yard line the key play. Tanner walked into the end zone to make it a 42-27 contest.
The Governors did not respond, with a penalty forcing the Govs into a third and long, which they were unable to convert.

After a Ryan Key punt, MTSU took over at its own 20-yard line. On first down, Murphy attempted a run left and was tackled behind the line of scrimmage, losing the football. It was picked up in the air by Ross, his night’s second of three fumble recoveries, and he returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. A botched point-after snap still left the Govs down 42-33 with 2:51 left in the third quarter.

But the Blue Raiders owned the fourth quarter, wearing down the Governors defense as they scored the game’s final 14 points.

The Governors finished the night with 348 yards total offense for 19 first downs. However, they could not match the 32 first downs by MTSU, which rushed and passed for more 300 yards, respectively, on the night.

The Govs now will have to look ahead to another short road trip for its second straight road game, but this one will be 6:00pm, Saturday, in LP Field in Nashville as Austin Peay opens OVC play against Tennessee State.


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