Clarksville, TN – It may have been Senior Day at Fortera Stadium, but it was a freshman that dominated the day as the Austin Peay State University (APSU) football team closed its second Ohio Valley Conference era with a 48-20 victory against Tennessee Tech, Saturday.
McCray opened his day with a 73-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter to give the Govs a 10-0 lead. He closed the second quarter with a 22-yard touchdown reception to extend the lead to 24-13 at the break.
The Tallahassee, Florida product kept the big plays coming in the second half. His 36-yard touchdown reception with 1:38 left in the third quarter provided the frame’s only points as the Govs lead extended to 31-13.
After the Govs defense forced a turnover on downs to open the fourth quarter, McCray and quarterback Draylen Ellis connected again. Their 47-yard touchdown strike pushed the Govs’ advantage to an insurmountable 38-13. It also was McCray’s fourth touchdown reception, tying a record held by three past Governors.
In the moment of the game, I had no idea. I was just playing and trying to make plays. Whenever I did find out, I just had to go in the team room, get away from everyone, sit down and just soak it all in.
McCray’s 237 receiving yards were second-most in program history, trailing only APSU Hall of Famer Harold “Red” Roberts’ 252 yards set in 1969. It was the most receiving yards by a freshman in the FCS and tied for third-most by a receiver this season. McCray is only the seventh FCS receiver with four or more touchdowns in a single game in 2021.
Ellis closed his sophomore campaign with a flourish, completing 16-of-27 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns. It was his third 300-yard passing performance this season, five yards shy of his season-high set against Morehead State.
Ahmaad Tanner added a pair of touchdown runs – his 10th and 11th scoring runs of the season – and his 57-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter provided the game’s final points.
Austin Peay State University’s defense bent but did not break, surrendering 405 yards but only two touchdowns. Shamari Simmons picked off a pair of passes – the APSU Govs sixth consecutive game with an interception.
Meanwhile, on special teams, freshman Maddux Trujillo kicked a pair of 26-yard field goals to finish the season with 14 field goals made, tying the program’s single-season record set by Tom McMillian in 1987.
Austin Peay State University, which finished second in the Ohio Valley Conference race, looks ahead to an entire offseason. The Govs are scheduled to return to the field in 280 days when they travel to Western Kentucky for an August 27 contest in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
APSU 3, TTU 0 – Starting inside its 20-yard line, Austin Peay State University opened the game’s first drive with a 20-yard rush by Draylen Ellis. He completed a 12-yard pass to CJ Evans two plays later for another first down. Austin Peay State University converted a 4th-and-4 on the TTU 44-yard line before a 15-yard Ahmaad Tanner rush and an Ellis 10-yard pass to D.J. Render for two more first downs. The drive stalled inside the TTU 10-yard line, and Maddux Trujillo’s 26-yard field goal scored the game’s first points.
APSU 10, TTU 0 – One play is all the Govs needed to open the second quarter with a touchdown. Ellis found Drae McCray on a swing pass, and he raced down the TTU sideline for the 73-yard touchdown run – the longest offensive play for a score in 2021. Trujillo tacked on the PAT, and the APSU Govs lead hit 10 points.
APSU 10, TTU 3 – Austin Peay State University’s defense bent but did not break on Tennessee Tech’s first scoring drive. TTU quarterback Davis Shanley wound his way through the Austin Peay defense for a 32-yard run to the APSU 19-yard line. Two plays later, a pass interference penalty put the Golden Eagles on the APSU 2-yard line, but three straight stuffed runs by the Govs defense kept TTU out of the end zone. Hayden Olsen got TTU’s first points with a 23-yard field goal.
APSU 17, TTU 3 – Ellis lit up the Tennessee Tech defense on the next Austin Peay drive, finding Eugene Minter down the Govs’ sideline for a 56-yard completion to the TTU 2-yard line. Ahmaad Tanner mopped up with a two-yard burst for the touchdown. Trujillo hit the PAT to push the Govs lead back to two possessions.
APSU 17, TTU 10 – Tennessee Tech responded on the game’s next drive, Shanley finding Cross on a short pass across the middle. APSU missed a key tackle, and Cross sprinted 38 yards after the catch for the touchdown. Olsen connected on the PAT to cut the Govs lead to a single possession.
APSU 17, TTU 13 – After the Govs were held to a three-and-out on offense, Tennessee Tech opened its drive with a 32-yard pass completion from Shanley to Dean. However, with the ball on the APSU 17-yard line, Tennessee Tech only gained five more yards and settled for a 29-yard Olsen field goal to trim its deficit.
APSU 31, TTU 13 – Ellis and McCray connected for a third touchdown just before the end of the third quarter. The score capped a drive that started at TTU’s 45-yard line after the Govs forced a turnover on downs. McCray got loose again six plays later and Ellis found him to push the lead to 18 points after the Trujillo PAT.
APSU 34, TTU 13 – The Govs defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Tennessee Tech drive, and Austin Peay gained possession on its 44-yard line after a TTU penalty on the punt. Ellis found McCray for a 32-yard completion to start the drive. Tanner then carried the ball five times for the next 15 yards before TTU halted the drive at its nine-yard line. Trujillo connected on another 26-yard field goal that tied the APSU single-season record for field goals made (14).
APSU 48, TTU 13 – Following another three-and-out later in the quarter, Austin Peay went deep into the playbook with Bucky Williams lined up in the backfield. The snap went direct to Ahmaad Tanner, and he roared through a massive hole in the line and rumbled 57 yards for a touchdown. The Trujillo PAT extended the Govs’ lead to 35 points.
APSU 48, TTU 20 – One the game’s final drive, Tennessee Tech turned its offense over to Lem Wash, and he led the Golden Eagles on a 5-play, 60-yard drive. David Gist rushed for 21 yards on the drive, and Gist rushed twice for 21 yards and connected on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Maples – Olsen making the PAT – to wrap up the scoring with 10 seconds remaining.
This was our Super Bowl. I am so proud of these seniors and this football program. When we were going through our three-straight losses, we have every right that. If any of our guys or coaches had an average mindset, they would have just turned it in. There are different ways to be a champion. Being a champion is not just always having a ring on your finger. You can be a champion defined by your character and your actions.
I am not just saying that because we don’t have a ring on our fingers, it is 100 percent what I believe in and what this program believes in. At the end of the day, we had a choice to make after the UT Martin loss to either turn it in or to respond. I am so proud of the way that we came to work every day. We never wavered in any meeting or practice. In both the losses and wins, our kids played hard.
I am forever thankful for this senior class and their leadership. I am also thankful for this coaching staff we have, their motivation, and the leadership that they provide, but most of all, I am so proud of these players for battling back
APSU head coach Scotty Walden
Tennessee Tech 20, Austin Peay 48
Tennessee Tech Passing
Tennessee Tech Rushing
Tennessee Tech Receiving
Austin Peay Passing
Austin Peay Rushing
Austin Peay Receiving
|Sack-Adj Rush Yd(Avg)||157 (4.5)||135 (5.4)|
|Time of Poss||38:55||21:05|
|Turnovers (Def Pts Off)||2 (7)||1 (0)|
|Sacks (Def Yds)||1 (2)||1 (8)|
|TFL (Def Yds)||5 (8)||8 (23)|