Clarksville, TN – The first win of the Scotty Walden era is in the books. And an eventful win it was.
The Govs used another outstanding defensive effort and an incredible early rushing performance by Brian Snead to fight through a first-half downpour and take down Tennessee State in a 27-20 Ohio Valley Conference victory from Fortera Stadium.
In its fifth game of the wild and wonderful 2020-21 season, the Govs picked up their first victory despite—because?—being their opponent’s season-opener for the fifth-straight game. The APSU Govs forced the Tigers to cycle through three different quarterbacks before the visitors attempted a late rally held off by Austin Peay State University’s savvy veteran defense.
The first quarter was not just about Brian Snead—it was about the fact that every time he touched the ball in the quarter, there was a literal 50-50 chance he was going to score. On his first touch, on Austin Peay’s first drive—Snead straight up the middle, 75 yards untouched, for six.
Second touch, second play, second drive—Snead, cut right, up the sideline 67 yards, touchdown.
Third touch, first play, third drive—Snead, rush left, 44 yards. Pay dirt.
A three-carry, 186-yard, three-score statline seems improbable outside the context of a particularly easy Madden matchup, but that’s what Snead was toting as the Govs lined up for their fourth drive.
There was 7:04 left in the first quarter, and the Govs led 20-0.
Tennessee State began selling out to try and bottle up Snead, and to their credit after the first quarter they were largely able to, if not stop, then at least slow down the Governors’ clear lead back with Ahmaad Tanner sidelined. But what a first quarter it was—six carries for 204 yards, an FCS record for a single quarter, along with the aforementioned three scores. The Govs took a 20-0 lead and all the momentum into the second quarter, especially after holding and haranguing Tennessee State into just 14 first-quarter yards.
Tennessee State got its first real scoring opportunity early in the second quarter when a blocked punt put the Tigers deep in Austin Peay State University territory to start the drive. But three Shawn McColley runs failed to get the Tigers into the end zone, with Troy Henderson involved in a stop at the line followed by a stop in the backfield.
A chip-shot Antonio Zita field goal attempt in the driving run was mis-hit and the Govs kept the Tigers off the board for another drive.
Eventually the Tigers broke through with a Deveon Bryant-to-Vincent Perry 19-yard strike late in the second quarter, but Austin Peay’s defense forced the Tigers to earn it at every turn. Only twice in the first half—the very first drive of the day and the Tigers first touchdown drive—was Tennessee State able to stay on the field for more than four plays.
It was a credit to Austin Peay State University’s defense, which once again flew around all day and finished with 13 tackles for loss while holding the Tigers to 2.2 yards per rush and a 3-for-17 conversion rate on third down. It helped that Tennessee State needed nearly nine yards on its third-down attempts.
A third-quarter field goal brought the Tigers within 10 points but Austin Peay quickly made it a three-score game again late in the frame. On Austin Peay State University’s first down two drives later, freshman quarterback Draylen Ellis dropped back and lofted a beautiful throw to DeAngelo Wilson for 48 yards to the Tennessee State 14. Two CJ Evans Jr. rushes later, both for seven yards, and the APSU Govs were once more in the end zone.
Wilson was the main target for Ellis and the APSU Govs on Sunday—of Austin Peay’s six catches, Wilson had five for 114 yards, marking the 11th career 100-yard game for Austin Peay’s pass-catching savant. The inclement weather made for a particularly difficult passing day for the Govs and Ellis, whose mobility remained a threat the Tigers had to account for.
With time winding down in the third quarter, Kordell Jackson picked off David Johnson to put the Govs at midfield to start the fourth. While a fumble and a sack ended that drive before it truly got started, Austin Peay boasted a 27-10 lead with just 14:11 remaining.
Zita hit from 29 yards on Tennessee State’s ensuing drive to draw the contest closer, and the Tigers forced a three-and-out and drew within a score after Isaiah Green hit Cam Wyche from six yards out with 6:48 remaining. Three-straight three-and-outs followed until Tennessee State took over on their own 14 with 1:32 remaining and no timeouts.
On fourth-and-14, Green found Perry for 15 yards to keep the drive alive; Tennessee State’s third quarterback, of the day brought the Tigers within sight of the goal line but on the game’s final play, Terrell Lucas got loose in the backfield and hurried Green’s throw, which was knocked down by Jack McDonald near the goal line—it was a fitting end for another banner day for McDonald, who finished with 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and the game-ending break-up to send the jubilant Govs into the locker room as victors.
Snead finished his career day with 227 yards on 23 carries, an impressive 9.9 yards per pop. The Govs as a team ran for 6.1 yards per carry, with Evans also moving the chains at 4.7 yards per tote.
Tennessee State 20, Austin Peay 27
Next Up For APSU Football
The Governors will now head into the first of two bye weeks they’ll enjoy this spring; Austin Peay State University football’s next appearance will take the Govs to Cape Girardeau, Missouri where they will take on Southeast Missouri, 2:00pm, March 14th, at Houck Field.