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Govs one step closer to OVC title

Robert Smith/Tnsports360.com

By Casey Crigger

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In one of the biggest games in program history – Homecoming and a battle to stay atop the OVC – Austin Peay showed up in a big way, holding UT Martin’s offense to minus-25 rushing yards as it claimed a 38-24 win in the season’s penultimate home game.

It was a slow start to the game for the Governors offense, losing a fumble and punting in their first two drives. But while the offense sputtered early, the defense came out on the attack. The Govs defense forced a punt on each of UT Martin’s first three drives. Kordell Jackson recorded a sack to slow the first drive, Jack McDonald got to the quarterback to end the second drive, and on the third Josephus Smith and Pat Walker combined for a tackle for a loss to pin the Skyhawks back on the five yard line on first down.

After the defense forced the third UT Martin punt of the day, the Govs offense finally kicked it into gear as the clock ticked down on the first quarter. The Govs started a drive with 57 seconds left in the first,  and the drive seemed like it would end with a field goal when Logan Birchfield was sent out for a 30-yard attempt. JaVaughn Craig took the snap and pitched to Ahmad Tanner who scampered for six yards and a Govs first down.

On the very next play from scrimmage, wide receiver Baniko Harley lined up to take the snap in the “Wild Gov” formation. Harley followed running back Prince Momodu right back up the middle for a seven yard touchdown run to break the scoreless tie and jump-start the Governor offense.

With UT Martin down seven points and their offense unable to move the ball on the ground, the Skyhawks attempted to throw a deep ball to get things moving. To the surprise of nobody in Clarksville, Tennessee, the pass was picked off by Kordell Jackson, his seventh of the season.

On the second play after the Jackson interception, the Kentel Williams show began.  Williams ran off left-tackle into a pile of blockers and would-be tacklers. Williams kept the wheels churning, and when the Skyhawk players thought he was down, broke free and raced 67-yards untouched to the endzone for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

With all the momentum, Mark Hudspeth and Co. did not take their foot off the gas. On the very next drive the Governors faced a fourth and one on the UT Martin 49-yard line, they went for it, and converted thanks to a three yard rush from Harley. The conversion led to a 23-yard Logan Birchfield field goal, giving the Governors a 17-0 lead. UT Martin would tack on three points of their own, but the Govs still carried a two touchdown lead ito halftime.

When the Govs offense turned the ball over on their first drive out of the halftime break, the defense stepped up once again. On UT Martin’s first play after taking possession, Smith sacked Skyhawks quarterback John Bachus for the second time. On the next play, Shaun Whittinghill and John Wesley Whiteside combined for a three yard tackle for a loss. On third and 21, Bachus’ pass attempt would fall incomplete and the Govs defense would force the fifth Skyhawk punt of the game.

With the ball back, the Govs offense started clicking once again. Two more rushes by Williams, then a 28-yard strike from Craig to Harley. Then Craig did it with his legs, running for ten yards over the next two plays. Then Craig went back to his favorite target, DeAngelo Wilson for a 28-yard completion to put the Govs on the UT Martin five yard line. Williams did the rest from there, punching it in from five yards out on the very next play for his second touchdown of the game, and the Govs led 24-3.

UT Martin would get one touchdown back on their next drive, cutting the Govs lead to 24-10. The Govs would punt the ball back to UT Martin on their final drive of the third quarter. The ensuing Skyhawk drive saw them move the ball all the way to the Austin Peay 29 yard line, where they made the decision to go for it on fourth and five. With pressure from McDonald and Kwame Sutton, Bachus’ fourth down pass fell to the turf and the Govs offense had the ball again.

Rushes from Craig and Williams set the Governors up just short of midfield. Then Craig found Wilson again, who had managed to get loose behind the Skyhawks secondary, for a 49-yard completion to set the Governors up inside the five-yard line. It only took one play from there, as Williams struck pay dirt for the third time in the game, extending the Govs lead back to three touchdowns.

UT Martin would score again on the next drive, but the Governors offense would answer again. A nine play, 54-yard drive was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown scamper from Momodu and the Govs led by three touchdowns once again, with just four minutes left in the game.

UT Martin would score again to close the gap just a bit, but the Governors recovered the onside kick. Craig and the Governors offense trotted back out on the field one last time, where they would assume the victory formation. Craig would drop to a knee twice as time expired and the Governors claimed their third straight win.

When the dust settled, the sheer dominance of the Governors defensive front could be seen. Led by Smith, the Govs defense held UT Martin to minus 25-yards on the ground, recorded a program record-tying six sacks, and nine tackles for loss. The Govs run defense had everyone’s attention before the game, but they discovered a new level of dominance against the Skyhawks.

With Saturday’s win, the Govs gained even more control over their own destiny. They enter the season’s final two weeks, knowing if they defeat Murray State and Eastern Illinois they win the OVC regular season title and an automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs.

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