Turnovers seemed to be the theme this weekend in the OVC as turnovers heavily affected 4 games in the conference. Austin Peay fell to Mercer after turning the ball over 4 times, Tennessee Tech took advantage of a pick six to save their Homecoming by a margin of one point over the Redhawks, six turnovers helped the Murray State Racers topple EIU in Charleston, and EKU held JSU’s offense to just 3 points and STILL got outscored 24-7.
So let’s dive into the chaos that took place in the OVC over the past weekend.
UT-Martin 6 Georgia State 31
UT-Martin went into the Georgia Dome trying to get the 2nd FBS upset in the OVC this season. Unfortunately they didn’t fare as well in the Dome as they did in Hawaii. At first it looked as if UT-Martin was in with a chance at the upset. They went into halftime only down by a touchdown, 10-3. However, the Skyhawks were plagued with turnovers in the second half when a fumble by Najee Ray and a intercepted pass from Gunnar Holcombe both went for touchdowns on back to back possessions and blew the game wide open in favor of the Panthers. Defensively the Skyhawks had a solid performance. They held the Panthers to just 285 yards and forced two turnovers.
With the loss UT-Martin falls to 4-4 overall (3-4 against D-I opponents) but they are still 3-1 in OVC play. It’s highly unlikely that UT-Martin makes the playoffs at this point but it’s still possible. If they manage to win out they would finish at 8-4, with three of their losses being to FBS opponents and 7 Division-I wins, including a win over Jacksonville State. Of course this is theoretical, but it’s fairly safe to assume UT-Martin can beat EKU, Murray State, and SEMO.
The Skyhawks will host Eastern Kentucky next weekend.
Austin Peay 41 Mercer 34
It’s amazing how many different ways Austin Peay can find to lose a game. Austin Peay held the Bears to 0-12 on third down, out gained them 500 yards to 358, averaged 4 yards a carry in the run game and still lost. I guess that just goes to show how much turnovers and penalties can affect a game.
The matchup started off with a 12 play 86 yard touchdown drive by Mercer on their first possession of the game. Austin Peay answered back by fumbling the ball away after 7 plays. After an exchange of punts the Bears put together a 7 play 56 yard touchdown drive and the Governors answered back with a touchdown drive of their own only to be denied on a two-point conversion attempt. After another exchange of punts Mercer managed to put another field goal on the board and that was immediately followed by another Governor fumble with lead to another Bear touchdown. The Govs entered halftime down 24 to 6. The second half wasn’t much better. Although the Govs were able to put 28 points on the board in the second half the Gov’s defense wasn’t able to keep the Bears out of the end zone and the four turnovers proved to be too much for the Governors to overcome.
At this point with the Govs falling to 0-7 the only thing there is to do is try to end the 23 game losing streak. They are close and have the tools to end the streak, they just have to execute.
The Governors will hit the road and take on SEMO in Cape Girardeau this weekend.
Tennessee State 17 Vanderbilt 35
Tennessee State had a respectable showing in Nashville Saturday when they tried to play spoiler to the Commodore’s homecoming. For most of the first half it looked as if the Tigers were going to claim the first SEC scalp for the OVC since JSU took down Ole Miss in 2010 as they led for 28 minutes of the first half and went into halftime only down 17-21. Unfortunately big plays by Vanderbilt and turnovers by the offense proved to be too much for the Tigers to overcome and Tennessee State was shut out in the second half. The Tigers finished with 285 yards of offense through the air and 125 on the ground on 23 carries (5.4 YPC) for a total of 410 yards of offense, 19 first downs, and two turnovers.
With the Tigers only falling to 5-2 there’s still a pretty good chance that the Tigers can make the playoffs. If they win the rest of their OVC games they will finish at 9-2 overall. The problem with that is they don’t have any good wins and they lost to only good FCS team they have played, EIU, and calling EIU a good team may be a stretch after their loss to Murray State. If TSU wins out the teams that TSU will have beaten currently have a combined record of 18-46. Obviously their schedule has the strength of wet tissue paper but so does Sam Houston State and I’m willing to bet a 9-2 SHSU would make the playoffs this year.
Tennessee State gets back into OVC play when they travel to take on KD Humphries and the Racers this weekend.
Southeast Missouri State 20 Tennessee Tech 21
Tennessee Tech managed to win their Homecoming game thanks to a pick six thrown by SEMO’s Jesse Hosket early in the second quarter. Michael Birdsong also added 170 yards and a touchdown to help the Golden Eagles edge SEMO. Aside from one field goal by SEMO the second half of the game was entirely scoreless as TTU held on to their lead by a slim margin. TTU’s lead came in part because of the pick six but also due to Ryan McCrum missing his 30 yard field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter than would have given SEMO the lead and eventually the win.
Aside from the pick six and the missed field goal it was a good day for the Redhawks. They racked up nearly 400 yards of offense with 182 yards rushing while holding Tennessee Tech to just 244 yards, their second lowest total of the season. SEMO quarterback Jesse Hosket went 15 of 27 for 197 yards, a TD, and a pick while Birdsong continued to show his efficiency as a passer going 14 of 23 for 170 yard and a touchdown.
With 5 losses each for both Tennessee Tech and SEMO both are out of the playoff hunt entirely. However, that doesn’t mean they still can’t shake up the playoffs chances for teams in the OVC. With JSU traveling to SEMO in two weeks it’s entirely possible the Redhawks can get the upset everyone in the conference has been trying to get for almost three years if EIU doesn’t beat them to it this weekend. SEMO also has a chance to knock off 5-2 Tennessee State at the end of the regular season which could pose as a spoiler for the Tigers’ playoff hopes since a loss to SEMO to finish the season isn’t likely to sit well with the selection committee. Tennessee Tech will get to take a shot at Tennessee State the week before SEMO, on November 12th in Nashville.
Tennessee Tech will travel this weekend to take on #18 FBS Tennessee in Knoxville and SEMO will host Austin Peay in Cape Girardeau.
Murray State 40 #25 Eastern Illinois 38
You know how I’ve been saying that KD Humphries won’t be enough to carry the Racers by himself? Well the Racers decided to try something new today: run the ball well. The Racers ran 38 times for 236 yards (6.2 YPC) and it helped open up the offense in a way the Racers have badly needed. Humphries went 23 of 43 for 299 yards and a touchdown and the Racers put up 40 points behind a balanced attack. The Racers were also able to capitalize on EIU’s mistakes. 19 of the Racers’ points came off of Panther turnovers and the 6 turnovers proved to be too much for the Panthers to overcome. Oh did I mention the Panthers had a 21-3 lead late in the first quarter? Yup, the Panthers managed to choke away a three score lead. Had the Panthers held onto the ball they likely would have won the game.
The Racers may be out of contention for the playoffs but EIU isn’t, yet. With this loss EIU has put themselves on a slippery slope where if they lose one more game they will be at 7-4. Now if you think 7-4 and an FBS win is enough to make the playoffs you should go talk to some UND fans. If EIU really wants to solidify a playoff spot they need to take down #2 Jacksonville State this weekend to pad their resume otherwise they might be disappointed come selection day.
The Panthers will take on the #2 ranked Gamecocks in Jacksonville as Murray State hosts Tennessee State.
#2 Jacksonville State 24 Eastern Kentucky 7
Losing games because of turnovers seemed to be the trend in the OVC this weekend and EKU exemplified that in spectacular fashion…
When most people think of the strengths of the Gamecocks most people will say “offensive juggernaut”. And why not? This is the team that set the record for the most lopsided semi-final game in FCS history last year in their 62-10 win over Sam Houston State and averaged over 500 yards a game last year…. Or is it?
JSU may have had 24 points and 350 yards against the Colonels but the Cocks scored 0 points on offense. ZERO. The Gamecocks’ offense hasn’t been held without a touchdown in 4 years. The last time it happened was in 2012 in the Swamp when they got beat 23-0 by #6 Florida and EKU was the first FCS team to hold them without a touchdown since Bama State did it in ‘07. The Gamecocks rode their defense to victory in Richmond as they recorded 5 interceptions and took three of them back for touchdowns, an FCS record. That’s not the only problem with the Gamecocks. They also can’t kick field goals with any consistency and the penalties against them is borderline absurd. If the Gamecocks can’t fix their kicking game, clean up the penalties, and get the offense back in gear they will be extremely disappointed in the playoffs.
That said, EKU played a great game defensively. Head Coach Mark Elder gave the Colonels a great game plan to stop Eli Jenkins and executed it. If the Colonels can get the quarterback issue straightened out the Colonels will be a very good team.
JSU will host #25 EIU this weekend and EKU will travel to take on the Skyhawks in Martin, Tennessee.
Jacksonville State Gamecocks (6-1, 3-0 OVC)
Tennessee State Tigers (5-2, 2-1 OVC)
Eastern Illinois Panthers (5-3, 3-2 OVC)
UT-Martin Skyhawks (4-4, 3-1 OVC)
Eastern Kentucky Colonels (2-5, 1-3 OVC)
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles (3-5, 3-3 OVC)
Southeast Missouri Redhawks (2-5, 2-2 OVC)
Murray State Racers (2-5, 2-2 OVC)
Austin Peay Governors (0-7, 0-5 OVC)