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APSU Football knocks off Southeast Missouri, 28-24

 

APSU FootballClarksville, TN – Do they have your attention yet? Back-to-back top-25 wins. That’s never happened for an Austin Peay State University (APSU) football team.

One of two remaining unbeatens in the Ohio Valley Conference—and if UT Martin falls later Saturday, the Govs could have sole possession of the league lead. It’s happened… but not often.

Austin Peay State University football running back Ahmaad Tanner rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns Saturday in win over Southeast Missouri. (APSU Sports Information)

Austin Peay State University football running back Ahmaad Tanner rushed for 76 yards and two touchdowns Saturday in win over Southeast Missouri. (APSU Sports Information)

Austin Peay State University went through the gauntlet half of its schedule, the part with three 2018 FCS playoff participants, a ranked foe and a dark horse from one of college football’s most respected conferences. The Govs emerged 4-2.

Do you see something special going on here?

These Govs, who have battered and beaten four opponents in myriad ways, are here to stay. Once can be a fluke, twice perhaps a coincidence, thrice is certainly a pattern. Four times indicates dominance is afoot.

The first half was a tactical battle between well-coached squads well aware of the stakes—the last two programs to beat Jacksonville State were battling for de facto supremacy of the OVC. The Redhawks jumped out to the lead early, turning a 45-yard Kristian Wilkerson catch into a Kendrick Tiller field goal.

But quickly, the Govs responded. The Govs took over to start the second quarter and needed just six plays to go 45 yards for a score, with Ahmaad Tanner going the last 23 yards himself for the touchdown. Remember that name; it’ll come up again later.

The remainder of the second quarter passed in fits and starts—any momentum either team managed to muster was quickly negated, with Kordell Jackson‘s fifth interception of the season snuffing out a late first-half try by the Redhawks. The Govs are now 3-0 when Jackson intercepts a pass. Please keep throwing at him.

As defense-dominant as the first half was, the second half turned into a track meet. On Austin Peay State University’s first possession of the half, the Govs needed just four plays to go 68 yards for six, with a 48-yard JaVaughn Craig to Baniko Harley bomb chewing up much of the turf. Craig tossed a fade to DeAngel Wilson to cap the drive, giving Wilson six touchdown receptions on the season.

Southeast Missouri countered with a pair of scores, with Daniel Santacaterina finding Wilkerson for scoring plays of 25 and 12 yards to give the Redhawks both the lead and momentum (not to mention the ball) heading into the fourth quarter.

Trent Taylor turned the tide in Austin Peay State University’s favor, picking off a Santacaterina pass and returning it 35 yards deep into Southeast Missouri territory. Craig tossed an 11-yarder to Tanner, who tip-toed to keep his feet in bounds for his first career touchdown reception. Good Guys back in front.

A run-heavy Redhawk attack chewed up clock and marched Southeast Missouri back into the lead, with Santacaterina finding a double-covered Aaron Alston from 13 yards to put the visitors back in front. With less than 10 minutes to play, the Govs trailed by a field goal and needed both a score and a stop.

First, the score. Craig found Wilson twice to start the drive, for 29 and 15 yards, to get the Govs into Redhawk territory. Then Tanner scampered for five and caught another for 11 yards to get into the red zone. The Governor line pushed forward. Seven yards. One yard. One yard. Two yards on a crucial, game-defining fourth-and-one moment.

Tanner punched it in from two yards out—his third score of the night. Govs lead. Bedlam in the Fort.

The Redhawks would get their shot. Down four, six minutes to play, they ran four straight plays into the teeth of the Austin Peay State University defensive line.

They gained nine yards, turning the ball back over to the Govs when Pat Walker and Jau’von Young met Mark Robinson in the hole on fourth-and-three. An invigorated APSU front ground out two first downs on the ground to run out the clock and earn the win.

Tanner earned 76 of the toughest yards on the ground you’ll ever see, then added two crucial catches for 23 more. Harley caught five passes for 102 yards—his first career 100-yard game. Craig turned in another high-level 17-for-28, 243-yard, two-touchdown performance.

Shaun Whittinghill—one of the longest-tenured players on the team, on his third head coach, who has seen the best and worst of times in an APSU uniform—turned in the game of his life with seven tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

The APSU Govs are 4-2; they own a pair of top-25 wins and their losses are by eight points (to a top-25 program) and six points (to a 2018 FCS playoff team). They have proven themselves more than capable of standing toe-to-toe with anyone. They’ve received votes in the top-25 the last few weeks. They’re on the national radar.

So the question is: do you respect them now?


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