Ohio Valley Conference Reviews: Week 11

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album spent 31 weeks as the No. 1 album in 1977. That same year, legendary singer Elvis Presley died at his home in Memphis, not far from the Austin Peay University campus in Clarksville, Tenn. and farther away, in the cold reaches of North Dakota, a short, skinny youngster, began his senior year of high school. He would later grow up to remain short, but not so skinny, and become a sports journalist.

Why is 1977 significant? It’s been that long since Austin Peay found itself atop the Ohio Valley Conference standings this late in the season. It was also the last time the Governors claimed the conference title. They are hoping for a similar finish more than 40 years later.

The Governors ascended to atop the conference leaderboard on Saturday with a 38-24 win over league-leading UT Martin. AP moved ahead of the Skyhawks in the standings and is now 5-1 in league play, while UT Martin fell to 5-2 in conference play.

Southeast Missouri kept its hopes of a possible conference championship with a win over Eastern Kentucky in the dramatic fashion to move into a tie with Austin Peay for the conference lead. The Governors defeated SEMO 28-24 on Oct. 12 in Clarksville. Both teams have games remaining against Eastern Illinois and Murray State. The Governors travel to Murray State Nov. 16 and close the season Nov. 23 at home against the Racers. The Redhawks are at EIU next weekend before taking on MSU Nov. 23 in their season finale.

UT Martin can still win the title with a win next weekend at home against Tennessee State in their final conference game of the season. They will also need plenty of plenty of help from Eastern Illinois and Murray State along the way.

Eastern Illinois picked up its first win of the season on Saturday with a win over Tennessee State while Tennessee Tech made sure a new conference champion will be crowned after defeating five-time defending champion Jacksonville and eliminating the Gamecocks from title consideration. The loss also seriously damages JSU’s playoff hopes.

Murray State was idle on Saturday.

Robert Smith/APSU Athletics

Marquee: Governors Take Over OVC Lead

A pair of conference heavyweights went toe-to-toe for the first 18 minutes attempting to find an opening against their opponent.

Austin Peay found the opening first and was relentless the rest of the way as the Governors delivered a 38-24 knockdown punch to UT Martin to move AP into first place in the Ohio Valley Conference and keep its hope of a conference championship alive.

After a scoreless first period, Austin Peay got on the board for the first time when Baniko Harley scored from seven yards out with 11:45 remaining in the second period. The Governors would add to that lead just over one minute later when Kentel Williams got loose for a 67-yard scoring run at the 10:30 mark two plays after Kordell Jackson picked off a John Bacchus pass. Logan Birchfield added a field goal with 2:43 left in the half to push the advantage to 17-0.

The Skyhawks would get a field goal from Ryan Courtright from 50 yards out just before halftime to pull the visitors to within 17-3.

That 14-point margin would remain after the two teams traded touchdowns in the third period of play. Kentel Williams scored on a five-yard run midway through the period for the Governors before Bacchus hooked up with Jaylon Moore for the Skyhawks on a six-yard pass with 2:29 to go in the frame, but AP held a 24-10 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of play.

Williams scored for the third time in the game for the Govs on a four-yard scamper and teammate Prince Momodu capped a nine-play drive with a 17-yard run with just over four minutes in the game to extend cushion 38-17.

Bacchus and Moore connected twice for scores in the final period. Moore caught a pass with 9:27 left in the game from 27 yards out, but his 16-yard scoring reception with 1:23 left was not enough to cap the comeback for the Skyhawks.

Williams finished the afternoon with 118 yards on 17 carries, while JaVaughn Craig threw for 255 yards after completing 17 of 27 passes. DeAngelo Wilson led all receivers with six catches for 126 yards.

Bacchus paced the Skyhawks with 286 yards passing in the game. He completed 20 of 41 passes in the contest, but UT Martin was unable to get its running attack to generate much in the game. The Skyhawks finished with minus-25 yards on the ground. Zak Wallace was the top ground gainer as he picked up five yards on three carries. Colton Dowell caught six passes for 111 yards for the Skyhawks.

Redhawks Clip Upset Bid to Remain in Hunt

Southeast Missouri State was gaining enough recognition from across the nation to find a home in the national rankings in recent weeks. Pollsters might want to look more closely at what is happening in Cape Girardeau.

Zion Custis ran in from 12 yards out with just 37 seconds remaining in the game as the No. 18-ranked Redhawks held off Eastern Kentucky’s upset bid 38-31 in a key Ohio Valley Conference game on Saturday.

EKU led 31-14 early in the third quarter, but the Redhawks scored the final 24 points of the game to overcome the deficit.

Zack Smith got the rally started when he caught a seven-yard pass from QB Daniel Santacaterina with 5:11 to go in the third period to pull the Redhawks to within 31-21. Custis scored the first of his two touchdowns in the final quarter when he scored from four yards out with 11:20 left in the game. Kendrick Tiller connected on a 40-yard field goal at the 5:55 mark to set the stage for the dramatic finish.

The two teams were tied after the first period. Daryl McCleskey’s seven-yard run put the upset-minded Colonels ahead early in the period, but Santacaterina found Kristian Wilkerson for a 68-yard bomb that pulled the teams into a 7-7 tie after the opening quarter of play.

Samuel Hayworth kicked a 29-yard field as EKU regained the lead in the second quarter while Parker McKinney and Alonzo Booth scored on runs of six and 12 yards, respectively, as the Colonels increased their lead to 24-14 at halftime. EKU extended its advantage when Aaron Patrick sacked Santacaterina in the end zone and Tre Turner recovered the ball for a 31-14 lead.

Santacaterina finished the day with 295 passing yards on 17 of 27 passing and three touchdown throws. Wilkerson, one of the top pass catchers in the nation, finished with a career-high 10 catches for 254 yards and two scores. He also scored on a 45-yard pass from Santacaterina early in the second period. Custis ended the contest with 16 carries for 83 yards.

McKinney completed 13 passes on 28 attempts and finished with 167 yards in the game. He was intercepted twice. McClesky led the Colonels with 75 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Jerome Gross led the way with 47 receiving yards on three catches. McClesky added a team-high four catches for 21 yards.

Golden Eagles End JSU’s OVC Title Hopes

Jacksonville State’s goal of a sixth straight Ohio Valley Conference championship dropped with a thud that reverberated throughout the conference on Saturday.

Tennessee Tech made sure of it.

The Golden Eagles built a 24-7 lead and halftime and that was more than enough TTU defeated the Gamecocks 37-27. It was the first win by Tech over JSU since 2011.

Tech quarterback Bailey Fisher accounted for 334 yards of total offense to lead the way for the Golden Eagles. He completed 20 of 27 passes for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also ran 17 times for another 121 yards and two touchdowns of his own on the afternoon. He scored on a three-yard run in the first period and added a seven-yard burst in the second period.

Fisher’s first scoring pass came later in the second quarter when he hooked up with Metrius Fleming on a short three-yard toss that gave the Golden Eagles a 24-7 lead. Fisher threw 26 yards to Brad Clark in the third quarter and added his final scoring throw of the day through the period to Darrius Stafford from 26 yards that put the Golden Eagles in front 31-14 with 8:51 to play in the quarter. It was the first scoring pass in Clark’s career. Fisher also hooked up with Darrius Stafford led Tech with 76 yards on three catches, while Clark and Fleming also caught three passes on the day. Clark finished with 55 yards, while Fleming totaled 29 yards through the air.

Tech’s Haidar Zaidan booted three field goals to aid in his team’s scoring. He connected from 54, 28 and 21 yards in the game.

Zerrick Cooper threw for 312 yards after completing 28 passes on 41 attempts. He tossed three touchdowns in the game. Josh Pearson hauled in two of those scoring strikes from four yards in the first quarter and a 66-yard reception with less than a minute left in the game. He finished with eight catches for 142 yards in the game. KJ Stepherson added 64 yards on seven receptions.

Jamari Cooper, who finished with six catches for 58 yards in the game, scored on a nine-yard pass midway through the final period. It was the 23rd touchdown of his career and tied Joey Hamilton (1996-99) for second on the school’s all-time list.

Courtesy The Tennessean

Panthers End Losing Skid

Textbook fundamental football was not working at peak efficiency for Eastern Illinois this season, so the Panthers resorted to some slight-of-foot trickery.

It paid off in a big way.

EIU recovered an onside kick with five seconds left in the third quarter and turned it into a touchdown less than five minutes later for the lead and the Panthers went on defeat Tennessee State 49-38 on Saturday. It was the first win of the season for the Panthers, who are now 1-9 on the season and 1-5 in conference play. TSU is also 1-5 on the season and dropped to 2-8 on the year with the loss.

The Panthers trailed 38-35 when Charles Shelton recovered the onside kick. QB connected with James Sheehan to move the Panthers ahead 42-38 with 10:17 left in the game. Jaelin Benefield scored on a nine-yard run with 7:21 remaining in the game to seal the win for EIU. The Panthers scored the final 21 points of the game to earn the triumph.

Benefield and teammate Darshon McCullough combined for 260 rushing yards in the game. The rest of the Panthers combined for just five additional yards on the ground. But it was still the best rushing day of the season for Eastern Illinois … and the Panthers will take the end result all the same, thank you.

Benefield scored on a 45-yard run midway through the opening quarter for his first scored of the day to put the Panthers in front 7-6. He finished with 105 yards on 14 carries, while McCullough sparked the ground game with his 155-yard performance on 17 carries and one touchdown. McCullough averaged 9.1 yards per carry on the afternoon and scored on a 15-yard scamper in the final minute of the opening period to tie the game 14-14 following Christiaan Masucci’s conversion kick.

EIU quarterback Harry Woodbery had a solid performance. He completed 21 of 34 passes for 206 yards and three touchdown passes. Woodbery found Sheehan for two of those scoring strikes. The first time that tandem hooked up resulted in a 12-yard score that pulled the Panthers to within 28-21 with just over three minutes left in the opening half. Woodberry’s other scoring pass went to Benefield with five seconds left in the third period that put the Panthers into making the decision to try to catch the Tigers off guard.

The EIU defense was impressive and held TSU to just 306 yards of total offense, including just 97 yards on the ground. Te’kendrick Roberson and DeMarco Corbin combined for 49 yards on 16 carries for the Tigers. Roberson led the way with 28 yards on nine carries and Corbin rushed seven times for 21 yards and one TD. His six-yard burst came at 10:07 of the first quarter and staked the Tigers to an early 6-0 lead.

Cameron Rosendahl completed 16 of 28 passes for 209 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the TSU aerial attack. He also scored one TD of his own on the ground on a three-yard in the first quarter and Chris Rowland added the conversion run to put the Tigers in front 14-7 at the first break.

Steven Newbold hauled in six passes for 86 yards and one touchdown

Rowland was Rosendahl’s favorite target on the day. He finished with six catches for 86 yards. One of those receptions went for 14 yards for a touchdown late in the third quarter that put the Tigers in front 35-21 at the time. Rowland, who scored on a 57-yard punt return in the second quarter, caught three passes on the day for the Tigers.