TN Sports 360

Govs knock off another top 25 team with late field goal

Robert Smith/Tnsports360.com

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Austin Peay kicker Grant Paulette kicked a 33-yard field goal with two seconds remaining, sending the Govs into jubilation on the home sideline of Fortera Stadium after a 34-31 win against 13th-ranked Murray State, Saturday.

A second-half shootout gave the Govs (4-5, 4-2 in Ohio Valley Conference play) a second-straight win against a top-25 opponent after Austin Peay knocked off Jacksonville State a week ago. Murray State (5-1, 5-1 OVC) will face the Gamecocks next week to decide the OVC for the 2020-21 season.

It was not a fast start for either program Saturday. The teams traded a trio of three-and-outs in the first 2:54 of play before the Govs finally found their way onto the scoreboard. Thanks to pinning the Racers deep to force their second punt of the day, the Govs took over near midfield and were inside the Racer 30-yard line within three plays, two being completions to Baniko Harley for eight and 13 yards. The drive stalled not long after and Grant Paulette, making his spring’s first appearance, nailed a 40-yard field goal to get the Govs on the board.

Near the end of the first quarter, the Racers found the counterpunch. Methodically, Murray State chipped its way down the field before a 26-yard Preston Rice-to-Malik Honeycutt strike got the Racers inside the Austin Peay 30-yard line. Four plays later, Aaron Baum hit from 41 yards to tie the game at the

The Govs took over with 1:51 left in the first quarter and drove deep into Racer territory on a 12-play, 75-yard march that spilled deep into the second quarter. Twice, the Govs converted on third-down and once on fourth-and-one when the drive threatened to stall near midfield. After Ahmaad Tanner converted the second third-down attempt, the Govs unveiled some trickery, using the flea-flicker to get the defense to bite on the run. Draylen Ellis took the pitchback from CJ Evans Jr. and hit a streaking Eugene Minter for a 26-yard touchdown.

The Racers answered on the game’s next drive, mostly via a 41-yard Rice-to-Jacob Bell completion to get the Racers to the goalline before Rice punched it in from a yard out to tie it at 10. The teams traded halting drives to send the teams into the locker room tied up.

And then the second half started.

You could tell quickly that the halftime adjustments might allow both offenses to gain a little more purchase. It took a whopping three plays for the Govs to find the end zone in the third quarter—Evans for nine yards, Evans again for 52 and then Ellis on an 11-yard scamper for six. Forty-seven seconds needed for the half’s first score.

Murray State’s Damonta Witherspoon opened the Racers second half with 29 yard and 16-yard scampers. Two plays later, Rice hit LaMartez Brooks for 28 yards for the equalizer. Two minutes and 40 seconds, two touchdowns. Business was picking up for the final 30 minutes.

The Govs began to march again on the next drive. Ellis started finding DeAngelo Wilson in space, for gains of 17, 18 and 21 yards on the drive’s first three plays to get into the red zone. The Govs moved to first-and-goal at the Racer five-yard line before Murray State seemed to have solved the run game, dropping Evans and Ellis for losses on back-to-back plays to force fourth-and-goal from the five.

Austin Peay and head coach Scotty Walden could’ve gone for the chip-shot field goal and the lead, putting pressure on the defense to stop the Racers. Instead, the Governors’ first-year head coach called Tanner’s number and the senior plowed his way into the end zone to put the Govs up a touchdown.

The Racers went on the march in response. Two Rice-to-Brooks connections converted third downs, and Rodney Castille converted a third-and-one inside the Austin Peay 10-yard line for six yards, down to the two. Rice called his own number again for a score to tie it up heading into the fourth quarter.

Early in the final frame, the Racers took their first lead on an 18-yard Witherspoon tote. With 12:23 to go, the Govs took over trailing by that score and immediately marched down the field. Ellis to Wilson for 11 yards on the first play of the drive. Ellis to Wilson for 10 on second-and-one. On third-and-12, Ellis dropped a perfect pass into Evans’ hands for 17 yards.

Ellis then used his feet to convert a third-and-four to get to the Murray State 11-yard line; two plays later, he hit Evans again for 10 yards and a score after the shifty freshman took the screen and eluded a pair of Racers to find the end zone.

With 7:47 to go, the Racers took over; on third-and-one, Hunter Scholato and Matthew Gayle brought down Witherspoon behind the line to force a Racers punt, on what proved to be Murray State’s penultimate play from scrimmage

For a team that plays fast as a principle, the Govs proved they could grind when needed, starting the final drive from their own four-yard line with 5:33 to play. Third-and-three, Tanner bounced through the line for 16 yards. Third-and-six, Ellis found Jay Parker for eight over the middle. Tanner for five yards on third-and-four. When they had to find a way, the Govs did.

Once Austin Peay hit midfield, the chunk plays started coming against a weary Racer defense. Ellis—again—to Wilson for 11 yards. Tanner for another huge 16-yard gain to bring the Govs inside the Racer 20-yard line. With 15 seconds left, the Racers called timeout; Tanner gained another five yards and then Ellis took a knee to center Paulette up for a 33-yard attempt with two seconds left.

Money. On the Racer sideline: devastation. On the Governor sideline: pandemonium.

The Racers had one more play to try some razzle-dazzle, but Elijah Culp brought down Brooks before he could lateral to end the game and secure a second-straight top-15 win for the Govs.

The Govs close out the spring 2021 Ohio Valley Conference season 2 p.m., Sunday, with a visit to Eastern Illinois.

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