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Jackson highlights Govs’ memorable win

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

MACON, Ga.—The questions were answered.

How will Austin Peay State University football team respond to its first road trip in 2019? Pretty well, as it turns out.

How will the Govs cope without Jeremiah Oatsvall? They got by.

How will the defensive line respond against a really good run game? Oh, not so bad.

The Govs dominated up front, got timely turnovers and an all-world performance from Kordell Jackson in a 48-34 win against Mercer that showcased some of the best performances in recent Austin Peay history.

At the open, it was Mercer that struck first, taking the opening kick-off 77 yards back inside the Austin Peay 20. That led to a field goal and an early lead.

The Govs needed just nine plays and 65 yards to get on the board for the first time, with a Kentel Williams 16-yard run and JaVaughn Craig 13-yarder chewing up chunks of yardage. Williams eventually punched it in from five yards out to give Austin Peay its first lead.

The back-and-forth continued from there. Mercer countered with a 20-yard strike from Robert Riddle to David Durden for their first touchdown, then the Govs responded with a lengthy drive that ate up the first quarter’s remainder and the early second, leading to a Logan Birchfield field goal to tie it at 10.

The teams traded punts, with Mercer tacking on a field goal to lead 13-10 when the Govs took over with 1:19 to play in the first half. Craig scampered for 16 yards on 2nd and 14 for a first, then delivered a strike to Keenan Barnes for 38 yards to put the Govs on the doorstep. While Mercer’s defense bent, the Bears didn’t break at the goal line, and the Govs closed the half with another Birchfield field goal to take a 13-13 tie into the locker room.

Coming out of the locker room, the Govs were forced to punt on their first drive, then held the Bears to a three-and-out on their first second-half possession.

And that’s when the game turned.

Prince Momodu snuck through Mercer’s punt protection and blocked Grant Goupil’s punt, giving the Govs excellent field position at the Mercer 24. Five plays later, Craig hit Baniko Harley for the score that would put Austin Peay ahead for good.

With momentum firmly against them following the blocked punt, the first Mercer play from scrimmage on the following drive couldn’t have gone worse for the Bears. That’s when Kordell Jackson read Riddle like a book and stepped in front of his pass attempt and took it back 29 yards for a pick six. 27-13 Govs. The makings of a rout were coming together.

To its credit, Mercer responded with a seven-play, 65-yard march that saw Riddle hit Chris Ellington for a touchdown to make it a one-possession game, which it remained until early in the fourth quarter. That’s when Austin Peay completed a seven-play, 62-yard march capped by Williams’ second score of the night, a three-yard plunge that served as his fourth career two-score performance on the ground.

The Govs never let Mercer get going in the running game. As a team, the Bears picked up 43 yards on 31 carries–Austin Peay’s fourth straight opponent to rush for less than 100 yards–with John Wesley Whiteside picking up 10 tackles in the middle of the defensive front.

Any hopes Mercer may have harbored of erasing the two-score deficit were ended by Jackson on the next drive. That’s when the Birmingham, Alabama native stepped in front of another Riddle pass and saw nothing but wide-open field for the next 69 yards as he raced untouched back to the house for his second pick-six of the night—the first Ohio Valley Conference player with two interceptions returned for a touchdown in the same game since Vincent Sellers (Oct. 7, 2017) against Eastern Kentucky.

The Bears got a couple of late scores from Riddle’s right arm—a seven-yarder to Mays and 12 yarder to Durden—to keep it close. Following an onside kick recovered by the Govs, the Prince Momodu Show took the field—he accounted for all 45 yards on a four-play drive, chewing up the final 22 with his first rushing score of the season.

The road continues—and hopefully the party too—next weekend in Johnson City, as the Govs make their first trek to East Tennessee since the program reinstituted football in 2015.

Hear it from Hudspeth

On early adversity

“It’s always next man up. We found out at 2 p.m. today that Kyle Anderton wasn’t going to be available, and we knew that we wouldn’t have Seth JohnsonJake Kilby and Caleb Florence both stepped up and played an outstanding game. I’m proud of how they stepped up. We overcame so much tonight to get a win on the road.”

On Jackson

“He’s such a ballhawk. Not only is he a good football player, he’s such a smart player. He studies tape. He’s always in the right position. He knows where they’re going to go with the ball, and tonight he made a couple of big jumps on the ball.”

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