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APSU Govs drop opener to third-ranked Georgia despite second-half defensive stand

Austin Peay State University Sports Information

APSU FootballAthens, GA – Sometimes you run up against a bigger dog. Austin Peay State University (APSU) football team ran up against the biggest dog of all—the Georgia Bulldogs, ranked third in FBS—to open the 2018 season, and departed with some valuable lessons to take into next week’s home opener against Presbyterian.

The Govs needed a good start against the Bulldogs, but Georgia is ranked third in the nation for a reason—they’re a very, very good football team.

Austin Peay Football loses to nationally ranked Georgia Saturday afternoon. (APSU Sports Information) [1]

Austin Peay Football loses to nationally ranked Georgia Saturday afternoon. (APSU Sports Information)

The Bulldogs first two drives were 10- and 11-play marches, yielding a Rodrigo Blankenship field goal and a Jake Fromm touchdown pass to Riley Ridley. The third, off a turnover deep in Austin Peay territory, was one play—an eight-yard touchdown scamper by D’Andre Swift.

Austin Peay’s third drive looked as though it would bear fruit. Javaughn Craig led the Govs on an 11-play drive down to the Georgia 21-yard line, finding DeAngelo Wilson [2] for nine yards for one first down and using his feet to pick up two more, including an 11-yard scamper on third-and-two to keep the drive alive.

However, the drive stalled just outside the red zone and junior Logan Birchfield’s [3] 37-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.

Halftime is not usually a cause to mention in a postgame recap, but this particular halftime was a little different. After a quick video thanking Dawg Nation for their generosity—Georgia fans had added a huge boost to the “For the Love of Landrey” initiative to help out with Landrey Eargle’s medical bills—assistant coach and run game coordinator Joshua Eargle [4] and his wife Kristen were presented with a check from the Kirby Smart Foundation. During the third quarter, the GoFundMe’s [5] goal was met; at press time, more than $135,000 had been raised.

After a busy first half, a rejuvenated Austin Peay defense began the third quarter with new life. Kordell Jackson [6] stepped in front of a Justin Fields pass attempt and nearly came down with his first interception of the young season. However, his break up left Georgia with a third-and-seven and Austin Peay stopped Brian Herrien short of the sticks to force a three-and-out.

Georgia drove deep into Austin Peay territory late in the third quarter before an opportunistic Governor defense snuffed out another drive. Georgia’s Matthew Downing failed to execute the handoff and in the scrum, Austin Peay junior Shaun Whittinghill [7] pounced on the ball for his first career fumble recovery.

Craig led another march into Georgia territory after a targeting call on Georgia’s James Cook put the Govs near midfield to start the drive. Darryl Rollins-Davis took off for 14 yards and scampered 13 yards for another first down to put the Govs into Georgia territory. However, the drive stalled and the fourth-and-three rush by Tre’ Nation came up just short. 

The Govs made some significant halftime adjustments, and those paid dividends in the second half. Aside from a touchdown march in the third quarter, which featured a 36-yard scamper by James Cook and ended with a 12-yard toss from Fields to Isaac Naula, the Govs were able to keep Georgia at bay for much of the half—the Govs even held the Bulldogs to 13 total yards in the fourth quarter and kept Georgia off the board in the final quarter.

For the game, Craig and sophomore Jeremiah Oatsvall [9] combined to go 13-of-21 passing, hitting seven different receivers. Four of those targets found DeAngelo Wilson [2] for 25 yards, both career highs. Malik Davis [10] and Gunnar Scholato [11] tied for the team-high with seven tackles.

The Govs now go back to work to get ready for what should be a slightly more manageable foe. Presbyterian visits Fortera Stadium 6:00pm, September 8th, as the Govs look to win the home opener for the second year in a row.