Colby McKee (51) runs after picking up an APSU fumble. NICHOLE BARNES | THE ALL STATE

Austin Peay hosted Ohio Valley Conference opponent Tennessee State on Saturday, Oct. 2, in a performance that resulted in a 24-22 loss for the Governors.

While TSU (2-3) is a conference opponent, it was scheduled as a non-conference game. The two teams will meet again in November for a contest that will be used for official conference standings.

The Govs (2-3) turned in a sloppy performance on both sides of the ball despite showing promise through the early part of the season. Their offense could not get much going, even with a few major breaks on the defensive side early on.

A fumble recovered in the red zone by the APSU defense and a missed 26-yard field goal by kicker Antonio Zita looked to give the offense momentum, but they were never able to capitalize.

“They made a lot of mistakes and we didn’t capitalize,” said head coach Scotty Walden. “We have got to be better and we have to flip the script there.”

The second quarter was a defensive struggle all around. The only points were on a 23-yard field goal from Zita after another defensive stop, resulting in a 3-0 deficit going into halftime. 

The scoring picked up in the third quarter for both sides. After a 25-yard field goal by Maddux Trujillo to tie the game, the Tigers quickly responded with their first touchdown, a 63-yard score from Geremy Hickbottom to Rodell Rahmaan. 

APSU answered with a 66-yard touchdown run by Brian Snead to give the Governors a 10-9 lead. Snead was an extremely productive player during last year’s spring season but has seen limited action this year due to a knee injury.

“Brian made a huge play for us tonight,” Walden said. “We’ve been telling him that his big play is coming, and it came tonight. We try to scheme up ways to get him the ball. He’s coming off of an injury and it has taken him a while to get back into the groove, but I think he needed a run like that tonight to get it going moving forward.”

TSU recaptured the lead in the third on a 48-yard quarterback keeper by Hickbottom, but two more field goals from Trujillo cut the deficit to 17-16 midway through the fourth.

Just as APSU looked to get a huge stop and get the ball back down by one, Hickbottom found Rahmaan again on a third-down pass that resulted in a 45-yard touchdown. The score extended the TSU lead to 24-16 with five minutes left in the game. 

With their backs against the wall, the Governors finally found the groove they had been searching for all night. They methodically drove the ball down and scored on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Draylen Ellis to Baniko Harley to make it a two-point game with 1:56 to play. 

On the two-point conversion attempt, Ellis seemed to have an open receiver, but the pass was dropped.

The defense held on the ensuing drive, and the Govs had one final chance to come out with a win.

After a few positive plays, APSU resorted to multiple lateral attempts that ultimately failed, giving the Tigers the 24-22 victory.

TSU accounted for 485 yards of total offense in the win, while all-American defensive back Kordell Jackson played sparingly. Jackson had missed the previous two games entering the contest.

“It really just comes down to us,” said linebacker Jack McDonald. “The plays that were mishaps on our defense tonight were big plays.

“Those mishaps tonight happened to be big mishaps that we can’t afford. We have to be better in that area: we have to get the ball on the ground, we have to tackle better, and we just can’t have those breakdowns on defense.”

The Governors totaled 383 yards of offense, their second lowest total this season. 

They look to bounce back next week in their conference opener against Southeast Missouri State.