The abbreviated fall football season for the Austin Peay State Governors has come and gone without a victory.
After a heartbreaker in August against Central Arkansas and a squashing in Pittsburgh, the Govs traveled to Cincinnati on Sept. 19 to face the nationally-ranked Bearcats, losing 55-20.
To APSU’s credit, the score was closer than their 55-0 smattering against the Panthers one week prior which allowed Pitt to slide into the final spot of the AP Top 25. It took them only one drive to score their first points of the game – after 14 plays, highlighted by a 17-yard strike from quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall to wide receiver Baniko Hardley, kicker Grant Paulette nailed a 30-yard field goal to put the Governors behind 7-3.
Unfortunately for them, it wouldn’t stay close. While the Govs punted on their next three possessions before halftime, the Bearcats scored touchdowns on theirs to lead 28-3 at the break.
A glimmer of hope arose in APSU’s first drive of the third quarter. A 15-play drive, including a 24-yard catch by Geordon Pollard on fourth-and-4, got them in the red zone.
“I thought the game was a little bit in the balance because if we scored we were going to go for two and make it 28-14, and then you’re down 14 to the No. 13 team in the country,” said APSU head coach Marquase Lovings.
Again, they couldn’t punch into the end zone and instead turned back to Paulette who converted again from 29 yards out.
The next Cincinnati drive ended in a punt and gave the Governors another chance to sneak back into the game, but they too were forced to punt before the Bearcats scored touchdowns on their next four drives.
The fourth quarter belonged to APSU true freshman CJ Evans, who scored two touchdowns – a 1-yard punch-in and a 64-yard dash – to get the Governors to their highest point total of the season.
With that final drive, the Governors will be sent into a second “offseason” due to the OVC’s decision to postpone the conference season until spring.
“We’re going to give our kids off one week and get them away, out of the weight room, away from football for a whole week and focus on academics,” Lovings said. “Make sure our kids are doing what they need to do from an academic standpoint of going to class, making sure they’re with their tutors and study hall. After that, we begin about an eight week cycle of four days in the weight room.”
On top of football work, Lovings wants to give his players a chance to learn about social issues, which is on par with their recent trip to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.
“Next Wednesday is our first one that’ll focus on social reform, and we’ll have people from the police department come on over and speak to our young men about Miranda Rights, what you do when an officer pulls you over, how you should always have your insurance card on you, how you should have your insurance card in your glove box and what are our police rights,” he said.
“On Thursday we’ll go over voting. Absentee ballots, when you need to have your deadlines in.”
From a football standpoint, they plan to continue on with Oatsvall as their starting quarterback despite a shaky fall season, throwing for only 479 yards with a 49 percent completion percentage, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Evans and Harley emerged as the offensive stars. The former took 26 carries for 194 yards and four touchdowns, with two scores coming from 75 and 64 yards out. The latter caught 11 passes for 216 yards.
Defensively, preseason OVC Defensive Player of the Year Kordell Jackson led the team with 18 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
As for Lovings, the interim head coach feels he grew in his three games at the helm. The time between the Cincinnati game and their first OVC contest could solidify or end his tenure as the team’s full-time leader.
“I got better and better each game,” Lovings said. “I think I got better in terms of managing the games a little bit better. I think I got better at managing people.
“I know the scoreboard doesn’t reflect any coaching whatsoever and we’ve got to get better at that obviously, but we have a great staff, we really do. I hope we get to do things together going forward and I hope we get to go to the OVC and defend our title.”