The #20 Austin Peay Governors traveled east Thursday night to open their season against #18 University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
In what was one of the more highly anticipated matchups in the FCS, the Govs used a strong fourth quarter to pull out an impressive 30-20 win, their first ever against UTC.
APSU was led by a slew of huge offensive performances, but Baniko Harley was the go-to-guy for star sophomore quarterback Draylen Ellis. Finishing with six catches and 137 receiving yards, Harley kept the Chattanooga defense on its toes all night and opened up opportunities on the ground.
Ahmaad Tanner reaped the benefits of the Mocs’ defense keying in on the pass game late; he finished with 105 rushing yards on the night, 82 of which coming in the final two drives.
“We felt like if we trusted our foundation and training, along with keeping up the tempo in the second half, the dam was going to break,” Head coach Scotty Walden said, “I can’t say enough about Ahmaad Tanner and our offensive line.”
Chattanooga got out to an early touchdown lead on its second drive in the first. With an interception and two punts to show for their first three drives of the fall, Ellis then broke the seal by connecting with Harley for a 35-yard touchdown. A 30-yard dash by Kansas State transfer D.J. Render gave the Governors a lead in the second.
Another Mocs’ rushing touchdown and a field goal from true freshman Maddux Trujillo gave the Govs a two-point cushion at the half. APSU outscored its opposition 14-6 in the final two quarters and allowed just 24 yards of offense in the fourth.
Johnathan Edwards picked off Chattanooga quarterback Drayton Arnold twice, and all-American defensive back Kordell Jackson led the team with eight tackles on Thursday.
“Our (defensive) guys came out of halftime playing with their hair on fire,” Walden said. “Johnathan Edwards has worked his tail off every day of the offseason and has become a leader for us.”
Ellis, the preseason’s Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year, also had a very good night and delivered in big moments throughout the game. He was intercepted twice but completed 23-of-33 passes with 325 yards and four touchdowns.
APSU will be back in action next Saturday, September 11, when they travel to Oxford, Miss. to face the Ole Miss Rebels. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.