CLARKSVILLE – Another week, another milestone for the Austin Peay football team.
After clinching their first-ever FCS playoff berth last week, the No. 17 Governors easily handled Furman with a 42-6 victory in the first round Saturday at Fortera Stadium. It was Austin Peay’s first playoff win in school history.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Austin Peay coach Mark Hudspeth said. “I still think they don’t feel respected. All year long, we were barely ranked. We still have a little chip on our shoulder. We have a long way to go, but we’re making a lot of progress.”
Austin Peay used a 28-point third quarter to pull away from the Paladins. The Govs will travel to No. 4 seed Sacramento State (9-3) for the second round on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. CT.
Williams powers third quarter outburst
Senior running back Kentel Williams missed the season finale against Eastern Illinois with an upper body injury. But he showed no ill signs against the Paladins.
The Knoxville native ran for a score, caught a touchdown and finished with 160 yards from scrimmage. Both of his touchdowns came during Austin Peay’s 28-point outburst in the third quarter. The Govs held a 35-7 lead heading into the fourth.
Williams took a screen pass from JaVaughn Craig 73 yards for a touchdown with 11:17 left in the third, and he tacked on a 1-yard rushing score nine minutes later.
“He makes a difference – he’s an exciting player,” Hudspeth said of Williams. “He’ll be the first one to give his teammates a lot of credit. On that long (catch), he had so many wide receivers, tight ends and linemen blocking downfield (for him).”
Craig, who threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns, opened the quarter by hitting DeAngelo Wilson for a 15-yard touchdown on a slant route. Prince Momodu also chipped in a four-yard scoring run during the offensive flurry.
“Anybody that watched the game could see there was a little difference in speed, quickness and size,” Furman coach Clay Hendrix said. “I knew that was going to show up. And it certainly did in the third quarter.”
Defense limits Furman
Furman entered the contest averaging 36 points and 426 yards per game. Austin Peay’s defense held the Paladins to a season-low of six points and 227 total yards.
“Furman has an incredible offense, give them a lot of credit,” Hudspeth said. “I thought our defense played assignment football. We talked about that all week. We had to stop the (halfback) dive, we had to stop the quarterback. (We wanted) to make them run East and West.”
Furman’s variation of the triple-option offense managed just 145 rushing yards on 38 carries. The Govs limited 1,000-yard rusher Devin Wynn to 61 yards on 14 attempts. They also forced three turnovers.
“This was the first time we ever faced a triple-option team,” said junior defensive back Kordell Jackson, who had six tackles and a fumble recovery. “The coaches did a great job of consistently preparing us and making sure we were doing our jobs. When you do (your job) and we play as a whole (defense), we can stop anybody.”
Austin Peay has allowed just 14.3 points per contest during its ongoing six-game win streak. The Govs will need more of the same to keep advancing in the playoffs.
Scattered showers and thunderstorms complicated the afternoon. Kickoff was delayed by nearly 40 minutes due to inclement weather. Midway through the second quarter, lightning struck near the stadium and the skies unleashed, prompting a one hour and 32-minute delay.
Austin Peay players did their best to stay loose during the break. They ate Firehouse subs, Doritos and fruit snacks. Craig wasn’t hungry, so he gave his sandwich to Jackson.
“I just relaxed and got off my feet,” Wilson said. “We enjoyed the time we had together. We got the focus back on what we needed to do.”
When the weather cleared, Austin Peay kept Furman off the board as Furman kicker Grayson Atkins missed a 59-yard field goal just before the half. The Govs held a 7-3 lead at the break before their offensive explosion in the third.
Austin Peay (10-3) heads to California later this week looking to extend its win streak to seven. The trip will be the Govs’ longest of the season – they played their first 12 games in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.
“There’s a lot of joy (in the locker room),” Williams said. “For a lot of guys, it’s their first trip to California. We’re going to take this trip and enjoy it. But we also know that it’s a business trip.”
Sacramento State earned a first-round bye with an impressive 7-1 showing in the Big Sky. The Hornets average 36 points and nearly 470 yards per game. Two of their three losses were to Arizona State and Fresno State, both FBS teams.
“Our preparation will be the same,” Hudspeth said. “The only thing that will be a little bit different will be the travel. That will be a little bit of challenge. We’re going to trust what we’re doing and continue preparing the right way.”