The final score doesn’t necessarily show it, but the Austin Peay State University football team had much to hang its hat on after Saturday’s 54-17 loss at Ole Miss.
The Governors (1-1) totaled 374 yards of offense – a program record against an FBS opponent – and recorded five more first downs than the Rebels Week 1 opponent in the University of Louisville.
“We’re never going to celebrate a loss, I don’t care who it’s against … but there’s a lot of things to be encouraged by,” said APSU head coach Scotty Walden. “I think we have a team that played hard throughout the duration of the night.”
Earlier in the week, Walden said he wanted to see “technique-driven and penalty-free football” after the Govs committed 11 penalties at Chattanooga. They were called for just three compared to the 12 penalty flags thrown against Ole Miss on Saturday.
“This coaching staff (and) these players, they competed from (the) first quarter to the fourth quarter, and we have nothing to hang our head about,” Walden said. “I think we’re going to be a tough out for a lot of people, and we have to learn from this.”
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was one touchdown shy from setting a new personal best in the win. He threw for 281 yards and five touchdowns as the Rebels scored the first 37 points and held a 30-point lead at the half.
Their defensive front only added to the offense’s fireworks, recording 11 tackles for loss and five sacks on Govs quarterback Draylen Ellis. The sophomore completed 22 of his 41 attempts and had an impressive touchdown pass to Baniko Harley in the second quarter, but he was seen limping during plays in the second half.
Ellis was replaced by Memphis transfer Sheldon Layman in the fourth. Layman, a junior, conducted an 81-yard scoring drive in relief. C.J. Evans Jr. capped off the drive with a 40-yard touchdown run.
True freshman Drae McCray was the leading wideout with another 87-yard performance, and both Evans and Ahmaad Tanner rushed for over 70 yards. Kordell Jackson led the way defensively with two sacks.
“I see this game as just another game, really,” McCray said. “It was a good challenge to see where we are as a team and where I’m at as a player. It’s just another week that I use to get better and see where I am.”
APSU welcomes Morehead State in their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 18.