Two of the OVC’s matchups this weekend came down to the wire with EIU and TSU holding on to their wins because of last second defensive stands. The OVC hierarchy looks to be laid out pretty clearly now but if this weekend taught us anything, nothing is for certain. Jacksonville State looked extremely vulnerable in their matchup with Austin Peay, Tennessee State despite being 5-1 is still doing just enough to win their games and winning by slim margins, and Eastern Illinois had their second nail-biter in a row with Tennessee Tech.
Murray State 31 UT-Martin 38
This game went as expected, lots of offense and minimum amounts of defense. The two teams combined for over 800 yards of offense on the day. UT-Martin was able to capitalize on a pick six and a fumble by the Racers in the first quarter to jump out to an early 20-7 advantage. However, the Racer’s weren’t the only ones having trouble holding onto the ball, 14 of Murray State’s points in the first half came off of Skyhawk fumbles that set up Murray at the Skyhawk 23 and Skyhawk 6 yard lines. The game would go into half at 27-21 in favor of the Skyhawks. At the beginning of the fourth quarter after a Skyhawk’s field goal, Racer quarterback KD Humphries showed why he is one of the conference’s best quarterbacks. The redshirt sophomore put together put together 6 play 84 yard touchdown drive to move the score to 30-28. After a quick Skyhawks three and out Humphries moved his squad down to the Skyhawk’s 33 yard line and set up kicker Connor Mitchell to kick a 50 yarder to take the lead 31-30. The very next play, Skyhawk quarterback Troy Mitchell found receiver Greg McKillion for a 75 yard bomb to take the lead right back, 38-31.
Humphries finished the day 23-44 for 248 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a pick. Troy Cook would finish 21-38 for 317 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Racers will travel to EIU this weekend and the Skyhawks will take on Georgia State in the Georgia Dome.
Eastern Kentucky 28 #26 Tennessee State 35
Tennessee State continues to take care of business as they defeated EKU this weekend in a thriller. The defense continues to be the brightest spot for the Tigers as they improve to 5-1. The Colonels were driving and junior Tiger linebacker Chris Collins stepped up in crunch time to make the game saving interception. The Tigers defense overall was able to generate 5 turnovers and even had a touchdown. Had Eastern Kentucky not turned the ball over 5 times they probably would have won the game. The Colonels had 584 yards of offense, 350 passing, and a season high 234 (No, Pikeville doesn’t count) on the ground and averaged a healthy 5.8 yards per carry. This game, however, was Eastern Kentucky’s last chance at saving their season. Even if the Colonels can upset Jacksonville State this weekend and win out they will still be 6-4 against D-1 opponents and that likely won’t be impressive enough for the committee with JSU, EIU, and TSU all playing solid football in the conference right now. Speaking of TSU, if they can win the rest of their OVC matchups they will likely be 9-2 on selection day with losses only to #19 EIU and Vanderbilt. If they have a respectable showing this weekend at Vandy and handle business for the rest of their OVC slate they should be a shoo-in for an at-large bid.
Tennessee State takes on Vanderbilt this weekend on ESPNU and EKU will host #2 Jacksonville State
Tennessee Tech 24 #19 Eastern Illinois 30
This game came down to the wire and one offensive pass interference call was arguably the deciding factor in this contest. On TTU’s potential game-winning drive, EIU linebacker Nick Horne was able to stop Michael Birdsong just 3 yards short of the first down marker with 36 seconds left in regulation to ice the game and seal the victory for EIU. The game was a hodgepodge of mistakes at critical moments. In the first half EIU was intercepted at the goal line and missed a chip shot field goal. Tennessee Tech also managed to gift EIU 3 points when they fumbled on the kickoff to set up the Panthers in field goal range at the end of the first half. In the second half with the game 20-17 in favor of the Panthers the Golden Eagles made the mistake that allowed EIU to open the game up. Golden Eagle freshman running back Yeedee Thaenrat fumbled the ball at the TTU 21 yard line and EIU was able to make a touchdown out of it, opening the lead to 27-17. Two possessions later Birdsong was able to string together a 8 play 90 yard drive for a touchdown to close it back up to 27-24 but an EIU field goal 5 minutes later meant the Eagles would need at least a touchdown to take the lead and saved the Panthers from a possible trip to overtime.
EIU will host KD Humphries and the Murray State Racers as Tennessee Tech will host SEMO this weekend in Cookeville.
Austin Peay 14 #2 Jacksonville State 34
So lately I’ve been giving APSU a lot of crap and after Saturday’s game I feel like I owe them an apology. But they aren’t getting one because they’re still 0-6. However, like I said last week, this team is different, this team has drive. For the first half Austin Peay looked like a team that believed they could win. They played like it too. I remember sitting in the stands in the second quarter with the game tied thinking “Gosh, this is it, isn’t it? Our first OVC loss in nearly three years.” The game went into halftime at 14-7 and should have been closer but Austin Peay had their 39-yard field goal attempt blocked. The Cocks looked weak on offense and the defense had trouble containing Timarious Mitchell all day. The Gamecocks day was saved when a bad snap deep in the Govs’ territory in the third quarter caused the ball to drop right in the Darius Jackson and set up Eli Jenkins at the 1 yard line. This mistake by the Govs blew the game wide open and the Gamecocks capitalized on the momentum. The contest finished 34-14 with Austin Peay’s final touchdown coming with :27 left in the game, deep into garbage time. Had a few more breaks gone the Gov’s way, this game could have been awkwardly close, or a full on upset. Either way, saying JSU just had a flat game isn’t fair to Austin Peay. They played extremely well most of the game and are a MUCH improved team. If they can bottle the intensity they had Saturday and play that well consistently they will definitely pick up a few wins before the end of the season.
The Gamecocks need to lock back in quick if they don’t want to be upset on the road at EKU this weekend and Mercer better be on upset alert when they head to Austin Peay this weekend.
Jacksonville State Gamecocks (5-1, 2-0 OVC)
Eastern Illinois Panthers (5-2, 3-1 OVC)
Tennessee State Tigers (5-1, 2-1 OVC)
UT-Martin Skyhawks (4-3, 3-1 OVC)
Eastern Kentucky Colonels (2-4, 1-2 OVC
Southeast Missouri Redhawks (2-4, 2-1 OVC)
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (2-4, 2-2 OVC)
Murray State Racers (1-5, 1-2 OVC)
Austin Peay Governors (0-6, 0-5 OVC)