As I left Stewart Stadium I closed my laptop and packed my belongings. I reached down and grabbed my Iphone checking on the other games in the conference. As the scores loaded my brain began registering what I saw at that exact moment, there was a 5 way tie for first place. Luckily for me, and unluck for the teams that lost, that was avoided or at least put on hold for the time being. Here is your final word for this afternoon’s action that had saw one team fall from the top spot and two barely hang on.
The first game of the day and it was something to watch as the Murray State Racers led by the running of Jamaal Berry, who rushed for three touchdowns and 163 yards in the victory over Tennessee State. Casey Brockman was his usual self posting 27 completions on 38 throws for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns. For the Tigers, who couldn’t establish an effective ground game against the Racers, Trabis Ward carried the ball 37 times for 111 yard and a touchdown but it wasn’t enough as he averaged just 3 yards per carry. Michael German couldn’t connect with his receivers who had many drops making the Tigers QB go 23-41 for 273 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Tigers pass defensive played without Steven Godbolt III who is recovering from a concussion and his presence was missed as the Racers drove up and down the field the whole game.
Tennessee State got on the board first with a touchdown by Ward which was then answered by the Racers when Casey Brockman found Walter Powell for a 13 yard touchdown. After the Racer defense forced a three and out the Racers drove down the field for a field goal taking a 10-7 lead. The second quarter was dominated by the Tigers who had an 18 play, 9:30 drive that resulted in German finding Wel Garlington for a touchdown. The Racers answered with a Berry 35 yard touchdown to take a 17-14 lead into halftime. Racers were held again to another field goal but then it seemed all momentum went to the Tigers who scored back to back touchdowns to take a 28-20 lead. The Racers scored on a Berry rush to go into the 4th quarter down 28-27. The Tigers opening drive of the 4th quarter ended with German throwing an interception to Julian Whitehead and the game was over from then. The Racers would score 3 touchdowns in the final quarter to get a 49-28 upset win over the league leading Tigers.
Eastern Illinois 31 at Tennessee Tech 24
This looked like it was going to be the day that we saw what Tennessee Tech was truly capable of, leading 10-0 in the first quarter over the one loss Panthers ,but Eastern Illinois would storm back with a deep passing attack to take the homecoming victory away from the Golden Eagles. Jimmy Garoppolo finished the day 27 of 41 for 376 yards and 3 touchdowns. Darian Stone of Tennessee Tech led the Golden Eagles on both the ground and through the air combing for 253 yards and one touchdown via the air.
Stone opened the game with with a long drive that resulted in Doug Page running into the painted earth for the early 7-0 lead. After a failed 4th down conversion by EIU, Tech would tack on a field goal to end the opening quarter up 10-0. Garoppolo would however deliver, finding receiver Chavar Watkins for a 61 yard touchdown to go into the half down 10-7. The third quarter featured the Panthers taking a 17-10 lead after Garoppolo touchdown and a field goal. Tenneessee Tech would answer however with Stone find Da’Rick Rogers for the tying score. However the Panthers were too much late in the game and would hold take the lead on a 73 yard touchdown pass and not look back. FCS leader Erik Lora in this one become just the 17th player in FCS with 100 receptions in a single season.
Jacksonville State 47 at Tennessee Martin 49
What was almost another upset in the conference, the Skyhawks and Gamecocks combined for an amazing 725 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air. No that last sentence doesn’t have any typos, they really did that. Derek Carr led UT Martin by going 28 of 43 for 402 yards and seven touchdowns which tied the league’s record. Quentin Sims recorded five of those touchdowns as the top target of the Skyhawks racked up 10 catches and 137 yards. Marques Ivory looked healthy as he too went for big numbers, 17 of 36 for 323 yards and 6 touchdowns. Alan Bonner had 5 of those touchdowns as well catching 10 balls for 235 yards. Sims and Bonner both ended the day tied for the OVC single game receiving touchdowns record.
The Skyhawks erupted for 28 points in the first quarter with Carr finding Sims three times from 9,8, and 33 yards and ending the first quarter leading 28-7. Jacksonville State would cut into the deficit with Ivory finding Trey Smith for a 7 yard touchdown. The Skyhawks with answer with a guess what, Carr to Sims but Jacksonville State would score at the end of the half to take the score at 35-21 into the locker room. The second half began with the Gamecocks scoring on back to back possessions both via Ivory to Bonner to tie the game up at 35. However Carr would find Sims once again for their 5th touchdown connection. Not to be outdone the Ivory to Bonner connection rang again but a missed PAT left them down by one and with both teams scoring late, the Skyhawk defense held on a two point conversion with 41 seconds to seal the victory.
Defense was the name of the game and Eastern Kentucky played it the entire game forcing the Redhawks into three turnovers in the victory in Cape Girardeau. Offensively the Colonels scored all four of their touchdowns on the ground, with QB Jared McClain accounting for two of them. Also top running back Matt Denham got on the scoreboard and rushed for 99 yards on the day. For Southeast Missouri things were tough against the stingy defense, throwing for just 56 yards and running for an additional 206.
The scoring began on a drive that was setup by an interception, which was capped off by a one yard run by Denham. After a field goal early in the second quarter, Deshaun Sands scored from 20 yards out to take a 17-0 lead into the locker rooms. The third quarter was where McClain accounted for his touchdown runs, scoring on two seperate occasions from three yards out. The Redhawks would get on the board on their final drive of the game with Blake Jackson scoring from 14 yards out.
Culver-Stockton 0 at Austin Peay 56
Austin Peay jumped on Culver-Stocken early and often crossing the goal line more times in the first quarter than they had for entire games. The Governors ran the ball 61 times, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, totaling up to 378 yards for the game. Austin Peay doesn’t like throwing the ball and didn’t need to much as Jake Ryan went 6 for 8 for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the ground the Govs had 4 running backs make trips to the endzone. While it was only against an NAIA opponent, a victory is something Austin Peay hadn’t seen all season.