TN Sports 360

Ellis directs Govs’ classic double-overtime win

APSU Athletics Communications

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Austin Peay pulled out another heart-stopper in a visit to Houck Stadium to take on Southeast Missouri, toppling the Redhawks 49-42 in a double-overtime affair thanks to record-breaking performances by Baniko Harley and Draylen Ellis and a host of outstanding performances up and down the roster.

After a week off, the Govs make it back-to-back wins on either side of the bye week and move to 2-1 in league play. Southeast Missouri has now lost back-to-back home games to drop to 1-2 in the league.

Fortune favored the Govs early. The teams traded punts to start the contest, and Shabari Davis appeared to have returned Austin Peay’s first punt for a touchdown but a flag near midfield indicated a Southeast Missouri block in the back to take the score off the board.

If special teams didn’t give Southeast Missouri its first score, it certainly contributed to Austin Peay’s. Following the return touchdown that wasn’t, the Govs forced a Redhawk punt that Kordell Jackson blocked, giving the Govs the ball on Southeast Missouri’s 41-yard line.

That was all the Govs and Brian Snead needed. On the first play of the next drive, Snead bounced outside, broke a tackle and raced to the end zone, marking his second consecutive game that his first touch of the day yielded a score.

Austin Peay’s second scoring drive was more measured. After the first of Elijah Culp’s two interceptions on the day, the Govs found themselves on the march near midfield. Two Snead carries for nine and 15 yards were supplemented by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Southeast Missouri to bring the Govs in sight of the goalline. On third and goal, Ellis dropped back and placed a perfect back-shoulder ball to a single-covered Harley on a fade to make it 13-0 Govs.

After Southeast Missouri forced an Austin Peay punt early in the second quarter, the Redhawks finally pieced together a sustained march, converting three third downs and adding a fourth conversion via penalty. On the 13th play of the drive, Andrew Bunch rolled right and hit Colby Cornett for 19 yards to get Southeast Missouri on the board and make it 13-7 Govs.

Austin Peay responded quickly. Four plays into the ensuing drive, Ellis dropped back and lofted a bomb to Jay Parker, and the diminutive dynamo ran under it and outraced the defense 71 yards for his first career score.

A double-dose of misfortune befell the Governors late in the half. A nine-play Southeast Missouri drive following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that gave the Redhawks premium field position brought the hosts within a score after a three-yard Geno Hess touchdown run. That was the first bit of bad news.

The second ended the ensuing drive for the Govs. On third down, Ellis dropped back and threw high to Brandon Lanier, who bobbled the bobble trying to make the catch and went to the turf. If the ball hit Lanier’s arm or the turf is a matter of some debate, but the video review proved inconclusive and Southeast Missouri’s Bydarrius Knighten was awarded an interception on the Austin Peay 19. Three plays later, Bunch punched it in and the PAT put the Redhawks in front for the first time.

The second half began with an extended exchange of punts, to the point where neither side managed to make much purchase into the others territory during the third quarter. But the Govs broke through early in the fourth quarter, parlaying an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Southeast Missouri into a 28-yard Ellis-to-Eugene Minter strike to take the lead; the Govs converted the two-point conversion to make it a 28-21 game with 14:41 to play.

As quickly as the Govs retook the lead, Southeast Missouri tied it up. A quick-strike, eight-play drive that ate just 2:16 off the clock ended when Hess gallivanted into the end zone for his second score of the day; the extra point tied it back up at 28.

The ensuing drive defined the game for the Govs. Austin Peay methodically marched down the field. Snead moved the chains. Ellis hit Minter for seven yards on third-and-five. Faced with fourth down and five from the 12-yard line, Scotty Walden never wavered; he kept his freshman signal-caller on the field and the result was one of the biggest plays of either’s still-brief Austin Peay career: Ellis hit Harley for a go-ahead score with 7:44 to play.

The Redhawks began the game-tying march. Chipping away at the turf, Southeast Missouri ground out a 21-play, 75-yard drive that took most of the rest of regulation off the clock and ended with a five-yard plunge by Hess with 23 seconds to play.

Four quarters weren’t enough. Extra football was on the horizon.

Southeast Missouri got the ball to start the half and it took Hess two plays to find the end zone for the fourth time, this time from two yards out. Governors ball, down seven. Highest of stakes.

Draylen Ellis seems not to be your typical freshman. On first down in overtime, the unflappable frosh checked down to Snead for seven yards, then stepped into a throw and found Harley, again, from 18 yards. Tie game; to a second overtime we would go, for the first time since 2007… in Cape Girardeau, against these very same Redhawks.

This time it was Governor ball first, and Austin Peay wasted no time pressing the issue. Seeing no season to deviate from a plan that had worked so well, Ellis found Harley on third and seven from the 22-yard line for a score—his record-tying fourth of the game, to pair well with Ellis’ school record sixth touchdown toss.

Not a bad day at the ballyard for that duo, but the Govs still needed a stop to head home with a win.

The defense got into the backfield and downed Hess twice to set up a fourth-and-long situation; despite an offsides penalty, the game came down a fourth-and-four that saw Bunch attempt to reconnect with Cornett, but the ball hit the turf and pandemonium ensued on the Austin Peay sideline to celebrate Walden’s first road win as a Gov.

It was a total team effort for the Govs in this one. Ellis threw for 262 and the aforementioned six scores; Harley had eight catches overall, four in the end zone, and Snead toted the rock 25 times for 138 yards. Culp picked off a pair of passes, broke up another pass and made six tackles overall, while Jack McDonald once more led the way with 13 stops.

It was another step in the right direction during the Walden era, which continues its first season with next week’s visit from UT Martin, 2 p.m., for Homecoming.

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