Contributed by: Blaine Kellar
Despite over two hours of total delays and stoppages in Saturday’s first round playoff game against Furman, inclement weather could not keep either side of the Governors’ players from performing at a high level of intensity.
Austin Peay notched their first postseason win in the FCS era, trampling the Paladins of Furman University, 42-6. Austin Peay’s defense stood firm against the Subdivison’s fifth best rushing attack (275.8 per game), as the opposition was limited to 227 yards on the day. The Govs were also active on the ball throughout, forcing three turnovers over the course of four quarters. JaVaughn Craig and company nearly doubled Furman’s yard mark with 434 on the afternoon.
The Govs’ looked like a well-oiled machine in the first round, but what awaits Hudspeth’s team in round two?
Enter California State University – Sacramento: the other team rising from irrelevance.
The Hornets out of the Big Sky conference are ranked fourth in the FCS playoff poll, with a 9-3 record on the season. The ranking serves as the team’s first placing since 2011, under new head coach (and former University of Utah Offensive Coordinator) Troy Taylor.
CSUS most notably lost 19-7 against PAC-12 foe Arizona State in week two of the regular season, a week after scoring 77 points in their season opener. Sacramento State has rattled off three straight victories, on the tail end of a 36-17 loss to Big Sky champion Weber State.
Austin Peay’s defense will have their hands full for a second consecutive week, as the Hornets rank 6th in total offense on the season, compiling a 5,500-yard campaign. Junior quarterback Kevin Thomson controls Sacramento’s offense, producing 35 total touchdowns to go alongside 2,900 yards through the air.
Similar to round one, the Governors’ offense may be the deciding factor of this contest: Sacramento state ranks 28th defensively, allowing an average of 5 yards per play, surrendering 31 touchdowns in the regular season. APSU’s defense ranks twenty-one spots higher than that of the Hornets, allowing a shade over two touchdowns a game along with two turnovers over the last six games.
Forcing Thomson to turn the ball over may be easier said than done, as the Walter Payton Award finalist managed a three to one touchdown-interception ratio this year. The Hornets disciplined play is to be expected with 27 seniors on the current roster.
Saturday’s weather in Northern California will provide another wet playing field, and a six-hour flight from BNA to Sacramento will be far from ideal. Although Sacramento State is given home field advantage, defense wins championships, and it’s hard to bet against Austin Peay, who have been crowned victors in eight of the last nine.
The winner of this game will host an FCS quarterfinal game, up against either #5 Montana State, or the 25th ranked Great Danes of Albany. The ball tips off in California at 9PM PST, available for streaming on ESPN3.