Through APSU’s three games this fall, the Govs found themselves without a victory.
A close contest against the University of Central Arkansas was combined with tough losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The Governors were defeated by an average margin of 32 points throughout the season. Despite the difficulties of an abbreviated fall slate, there are good and bad things to be taken away from the Govs first three games under Marquase Lovings.
Oatsvall out of sorts
The second half of Jeremiah Oatsvall’s playing career with the Governors has been a struggle. After being named 2017 OVC Offensive Player of the Year to pair with a 2018 Preseason All-Conference selection, the quarterback has struggled to find his rhythm. A foot injury derailed the junior’s 2019 campaign, but has since given him control of the Governors offense throughout the fall schedule.
In three games, the quarterback has completed 49% of his passes (41-83) and was held without a passing touchdown. Oatsvall additionally threw three interceptions, one in each game. Interim head coach Marquase Lovings was confident on Oatsvall retaining his starting status when OVC play begins in the spring.
“He’s going to get better with time,” Lovings said. “He really is. We got to get chemistry with our receivers in the first three games. We played two of the top teams in America. Pittsburgh is really, really good, and the team we played is a top 15 team in the country [Cincinnati]…We moved the ball with [Oatsvall] a little bit today. Obviously, we’d like a little more success, who doesn’t? Moving forward, we’re behind Oatsvall.”
Depth in the running game
The play that would start the college football season was true freshman C.J. Evans’ 75-yard sprint to the end zone in the FCS Kickoff. Evans gained national notoriety for his inaugural carry as a Gov, but has been one of two running backs that have served as workhorses for the APSU offense.
Brian Snead, a former Ohio State and Iowa Western running back, joined the Governors program in the spring and has made an immediate impact in the backfield. The former four star recruit has amassed 31 carries through the team’s fall season and looks to continue a high volume of touches in the spring. Snead and Evans, alongside the absent incumbent Ahmaad Tanner, should make for a dangerous trio as the Governors seek to repeat as OVC champions.
Defensive transfers serve as bright spots
APSU added 14 transfers to the mix when returning to campus for fall competition. Of those, five saw significant playing time in the fall.
Nathan Page, a junior from Arkansas State, recorded eight tackles with an interception and a forced fumble throughout the three contests. Defensive backs Koby Perry and Terrell Vassel – who previously played at Troy and Villanova, respectively – each had 14 tackles. Damion Barber (Penn State) and Troy Henderson Jr. (Kennesaw State) participated in all three games and were also vital parts of the Govs defensive unit.
The quintet of defensive transfers, combined with standouts Isaiah Norman, Kordell Jackson and Josephus Smith, make for a stout defensive front against any Ohio Valley competition come 2021.
As the Governors prepare for an OVC title defense, Lovings is aware of the progression and maturity happening both within his program and himself as a first-year head coach.
“I got better and better each game,” Lovings said. “I think I got better in terms of managing the games a little bit better. I think I got better at managing people.
“I know the scoreboard doesn’t reflect any coaching whatsoever, and we’ve got to get better at that obviously, but we have a great staff. We really do. I hope we get to do things together going forward and I hope we get to go to the OVC and defend our title.”
With the fall season coming to a close, Lovings and his staff will look to build on the lessons learned over the abbreviated schedule to guide the Governors to their second straight OVC title in the spring.