APSU Sports Information
Clarksville, TN – There’s no denying that a lot was at stake for Austin Peay State University (APSU) football heading into Saturday’s game against Tennessee State.
A win would even their season record at 3-3, get them on the board against Ohio Valley Conference competition and give the Govs their first victory in the 2018 Sgt. York series—a title Austin Peay hopes to defend after a long-awaited first championship in the quadrangular series a year ago.
The adversity Austin Peay experienced in its opening two OVC contests might’ve portended a sense of foreboding, but by the final gun on Saturday the Govs were back in the win column thanks to five forced turnovers – and one player had a bride-to-be – en route to a 49-34 victory at Fortera Stadium.
The Govs struck early and often in scoring their most points in an OVC game since 1996. The two sides traded field position for much of the first quarter, including golden opportunities for both the Govs, who recovered a fumble inside the TSU 20 less than six minutes into the contest, and the Tigers, who blocked the ensuing field goal attempt and returned it to the 40-yard line.
Austin Peay broke through first on a seven-play, 88-yard march late in the quarter, picking up huge chunks on an Ahmaad Tanner run for 18 yards, a 40-yard Kentel Williams scamper the following play and then a 16-yard burst from Williams to put the Govs ahead for the first time on the evening.
Tennessee State responded quickly and chewed up the final 3:38 of the quarter on an eight-play march of their own.
As the first quarter expired, Demry Croft found Chris Rowland for 23 yards and a score to send the game into the second quarter tied.
After a short Tennessee State punt set the Govs up nicely, Austin Peay quickly capitalized. Tre Nation scampered for 10 yards, Jeremiah Oatsvall carried for 14 and then Williams punched it in from eight yards out for his second score of the night.
The Tigers responded with 10 plays and 74 yards, featuring a steady dose of Croft through the air (17 yards to Malik Abdul-Haqq, 18 to Miles Cavitt) and on the ground (a 25-yard scamper inside the Austin Peay 20) before a three-yard pass to Aaron Cauthen tied the game up.
When Tennessee State threatened again, the Governors defense held firm, bottling up Croft on third-and-one for a loss and stopping him short of the line to gain on fourth-and-two near midfield. Blessed with a short field, Oatsvall found a streaking DJ Montgomery for a 45-yard gainer and then Tanner found the end zone for the first time this season, bulling his way five yards for the score.
Oatsvall trotted in from a yard out to put the Govs ahead once more, and the defense would pounce on another TSU fumble to snuff out a drive in Austin Peay territory and send the Govs into the break with the lead.
Tennessee State converted a 38-yard Antonio Zita field goal to cut into Austin Peay’s lead early in the third quarter, but the Govs quickly rallied. On third-and-seven near midfield, Oatsvall found Nation for 19 yards to put the Govs deep inside TSU territory, and Oatsvall finished it off with a 20-yard scamper into the end zone to extend the lead.
A poor handoff exchange saw Tennessee State put the ball on the ground again the very next drive, and Nate Howard hopped on it at the Tennessee State 23. On Austin Peay’s first play from scrimmage, Oatsvall hit Montgomery from 23 yards out to give the Govs some separation and make it a 42-24 ballgame.
Zita would hit another field goal, this time from 33 yards out late in the third quarter and after an Austin Peay three-and-out, backup quarterback Micheal Hughes would take the Tigers 62 yards in 10 plays and cap it with a four-yard strike to Rowland to put make it a one-possession game again.
Both teams saw pivotal fourth-quarter drives stall, but the defense stepped up once again when Howard strip-sacked Croft and Pat Walker pounced on the ball at the Tennessee State 23-yard line. Prince Momodu raced 18 yards inside the Tiger five and Nation punched it in from a yard out to put the Govs comfortably ahead once again.
Tennessee State made a late push into Austin Peay territory, but when Keawvis Cummings stepped in front of a Croft pass in the end zone, it sealed the deal for the Governors.
Gunnar Scholato tallied 17 total tackles, one off his career high, while Howard and Jaison Williams were terrors off the edge, accounting for 10 total tackles, 3.5 TFL, two sacks, a fumble forced and a fumble recovered, a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. As a defense, the Govs secured four fumble recoveries, most since a 2003 contest against St. Joseph’s (Ind.).
Juantarius Bryant tallied seven tackles and recovered a fumble from his position in the secondary, but his biggest moment came postgame. Utilizing the video board at Fortera Stadium, Bryant popped the question to his girlfriend Jamecia; she said yes to bring the ultimate end to a fantastic day.
The Govs travel to Houck Stadium next week for a pivotal road contest against Southeast Missouri, scheduled for a 1:00pm kickoff.