For the first time since March 12, APSU athletics took part in a live sporting event.
Despite the outcome not being what the Govs were hoping for, the APSU football team took the field in Montgomery, Ala. as part of the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff. The Governors were unable to mount a comeback in the closing moments, falling to Central Arkansas, 24-17.
“I challenged the kids before the game: our motto for this game, this week was ‘start fast and swing first,'” head coach Marquase Lovings said. “We wanted to initiate the fight and we couldn’t have started any faster than we did.”
The Govs jumped into the scoring column quickly, with freshman running back C.J. Evans’ 75-yard sprint serving as the first touchdown of the college football season.
Outside of the two early scores from both Evans and kicker Grant Paulette, APSU was unable to find an offensive remedy throughout the evening. The Governors only converted three of their 17 third down conversions and were limited to just 49 yards in the third quarter.
Central Arkansas took advantage of APSU’s offensive woes, scoring 16 unanswered points on the Govs defense.
The team’s lack of offensive production came due in part to the loss of multiple play makers who did not travel with the team. Although Director of Athletics Gerald Harrison was “unable to comment on any individual student-athlete’s health or well-being,” multiple players were suspected to be missing due to the ongoing coronavirus.
Among those known who did not travel with the Governors were wide receiver DeAngelo Wilson and long snapper Nic Screnock. Also missing from the field Saturday was cornerback Rashon Davis, offensive lineman Seth Johnson and defensive tackle Josephus Smith.
The team’s lack of overall availability was evident throughout the contest, as starting quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall struggled to find open wide outs and was forced into double-duty as punter following two botched snaps from the special teams unit.
Oatsvall, who was playing in his first game back since September of 2019, completed 14-31 passes to go alongside 218 all-purpose yards and one interception. The redshirt junior additionally punted seven times on the evening, with an average of 38 yards per boot.
The quarterback was able to give the Govs an advantage late in the fourth, diving into the end zone with under two minutes left in the contest. Central Arkansas would then cap off a seven play, 78-yard drive in under 90 seconds to regain the lead.
Oatsvall and company would have an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds, but the deep pass would find its way into the hands of Tamauri Wilson.
“You want to put your kids in a position to win,” Lovings added on the loss. “Hats off to Central Arkansas, they went and made two great plays…hats off to them, nothing but credit to them. Our kids are hurting in [the locker room], but we will get better. I guarantee you that.”
Lovings stated that, despite the many changes the program has faced over the past seven months, there is no need to gain the player’s attention throughout an abbreviated fall season.
“I don’t really think you have to have them focused,” He said. “We just played a top 25 FCS opponent, in which you’re the first game on national television in all of America, and we made the first play of the college football season. C.J. Evans will go down in history as being the first touchdown of the 2020 college football season, if that doesn’t get you focused I don’t know what else will.
“Now, we’re going to play two opponents where, if you have NFL aspirations, you need to show up and have some NFL tape. We play a Pittsburgh team that’s in the ACC and then we go play a top 25 team in Cincinnati. There will be no room for getting guys encouraged, we understand that we were going to go play the best the next two weeks. If you’re not excited to play against the best competition, I don’t know when you’ll ever be excited.”