APSU Sports Information
Jacksonville, TN – ESPN3 viewers were treated to a high-flying, high-scoring Ohio Valley Conference Game of the Week by the league’s two preseason favorites this week. Austin Peay State University’s (APSU) football team visited eighth-ranked Jacksonville State and pressured the Gamecocks all evening, falling in a high-octane offensive effort, 48-32, at Burgess-Snow Field.
After forcing a Jacksonville State three-and-out to open the game, the Govs marched 66 yards on nine plays to strike the game’s opening blow via a six-yard sidearm sling from sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall to junior wide receiver DJ Montgomery, who stretched every bit of his 6-2 frame to will his way into the end zone for his season’s second touchdown.
The defense forced another three-and-out – the Gamecocks did not pick up a first down until the five-minute mark of the first quarter – and the Govs offense basically reprised its first drive to open a two-possession lead.
The Govs took the ball 55 yards on 11 plays, a large chunk coming when Oatsvall found a wide-open Kentel Williams out of the backfield for 38 yards. Junior Logan Birchfield recovered from a tipped PAT on the first drive to nail a 34-yard field goal attempt and make it 9-0.
Although Jacksonville State finally broke through with a quick two-minute strike, culminating in a two-yard plunge by Clemson transfer Zerrick Cooper to slash the lead and JSU picked off an errant Oatsvall attempt near midfield on the ensuing drive, fortune favored the Govs on the very first play after the interception.
Cooper hit Jamari Hester for 11 yards, but Keawvis Cummings stripped the ball loose, Gunnar Scholato picked it up and the subsequent ruling on the field—that Hester was down—was overturned, negating a tremendous chance for Jacksonville State even if the following Austin Peay drive resulted in a punt.
Much of the second quarter was spent trading punts and grinding up the turf between the 20-yard lines. Midway through the quarter, Jacksonville State got a sustained drive going, converting a third-and-nine attempt when Cooper eluded the pass rush and found Hester for 25 yards. The Gamecocks converted a fourth-and-short near their goal line before Cooper punched it in from a yard out to give Jacksonville State its first lead with just over five minutes to go in the half.
Williams returned the ensuing kickoff 34 yards and bounced the first touch of the drive outside for 32 more, putting the Govs down inside the Gamecock 25-yard line. Birchfield converted another field goal, again from 34 yards, to make it a two-point game with three minutes go in the half. The Gamecocks would have two possessions over the final three minutes, but were unable to add to their lead and the Govs went into the locker room trailing by two.
Back came the Govs with a quick-strike, 27-yard touchdown pass from Oatsvall to DeAngelo Wilson to cap a six-play, 75-yard march. Montgomery picked up a large chunk of that himself, adjusting his body in mid-air to comeback and grab a 29-yard reception to put the Govs in Jacksonville State territory—his season’s 18th catch, equaling his total from the entire 2017 campaign.
The two teams traded punts on their next drives with Jacksonville State taking over near midfield after an APSU punt and orchestrating a quick drive that ended with a 31-yard pass from Cooper to Hester for a touchdown.
After the Govs ensuing drive ended in a punt, Austin Peay created another turnover when Malik Davis hauled in his first career interception and returned it 10 yards to inside the Jacksonville State 30-yard line. Oatsvall, who had spent extended time on the turf after being sandwiched by a pair of Gamecock defenders on the previous drive, returned and found Montgomery for a 24-yard touchdown pass to bring the Govs back within a score at the end of the third quarter.
Jacksonville State used up the final 46 seconds of the third quarter and the first 3:27 of the fourth on an eight-play, 69-yard drive that resulted in a Cooper-to-Hester score to make it a nine-point game again.
A Jay Parker kick return brought the Govs to midfield but when the drive stalled and the Gamecocks took over on the Austin Peay 20 after a Stuart punt, Jacksonville State began a methodical 12-play drive that chewed up more than seven minutes of clock and ended with a one-yard plunge by Zion Webb.
The Govs would get the ball back with less than three minutes remaining; desperately trying to will the Govs downfield as time ran low, an Oatsvall pass was intercepted by Traco Williams to deal Austin Peay’s comeback hopes a huge blow.
Against a Jacksonville State defense that entered play allowing just 57 rushing yards per game—easily the best in the OVC and fourth nationally—the Govs found creases early and often, racking up 143 yards on 34 carries for a 4.2 yards per carry clip that far outstripped the 1.8 ypc the Gamecocks had allowed their previous three opponents. Williams had a lot to do with that, picking up 54 yards on the ground as part of 156 all-purpose yards (54 rushing, 64 kick return, 38 receiving).
Oatsvall threw for 245 yards and four scores, both career-highs, and the first four-passing touchdown game by a Gov since 2016. Defensively, Scholato and Juantarius Bryant led the way with nine tackles apiece.
At long last, the Govs will return home next week to host Tennessee State—who threw a scare into a road SEC foe in a 31-27 loss at Vanderbilt earlier on Saturday. Kick-off between the Govs and Tigers is set for 6:00pm at Fortera Stadium.