This feature focuses on the teams in the Ohio Valley Conference each week. Interviews are conducted during the OVC teleconference.
CHARLESTON — After averaging 38.3 yards per punt as a junior, Eastern Illinois punter Cody Edwards has improved by 4 yards per punt this season. Edwards is averaging 42.4 yards per punt and had one of his best games in an EIU uniform on Saturday in the 19-16 win over Southeast Missouri State.
Edwards punted eight times and finished with an average of 46.1 yards per punt and put two kicks inside the 20-yard line. His biggest punt was his last one of the game. With EIU clinging to three-point lead with about 3 minutes left, the Panthers were forced to punt from their own 8-yard line. Edwards had to get the kick off quickly to avoid a block in EIU's end zone and he sent a low-line drive to the 40-yard line that wasn't catchable. There was a good amount of force to the punt and it took a big bounce, then another and the ball bouncing until it stopped at the SEMO 30-yard line for a 62-yard punt.
Instead of getting good field position for a potential game-tying or game-winning drive in EIU territory, the Redhawks were now 70 yards away. Bradley Dewberry later intercepted a pass at the EIU 1-yard line to with about 15 seconds to go to seal the victory.
"Hats off to Cody and our entire punt team," EIU coach Kim Dameron said. "I wasn't entirely happy with how we covered a couple of punts. Cody has really improved from a year ago with his hang time and distance. he has worked hard at it."
No. 18 UT Martin (3-1, 1-0)
The Skyhawks established control of the game against No. 20 Tennessee State early as the Skyhawks scored 24 unanswered points to start the game and UT Martin went on to win 31-16.
"No doubt (that was important) because you knew it was coming (from TSU) with the quarterback and wide receivers and how they are able to score," UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. "The last couple of weeks, we have gotten off to a good start. We are not that explosive on offense so we have to be efficient and control the clock and we were able to do that."
The Tigers did find a way back into the game in the second half and were only down by eight points with 9:10 left in the third quarter. But the Skyhawks held TSU scoreless for the rest of the game and added a touchdown with 3:02 left in the third quarter to build a 15-point lead again.
Simpson said his team did a good job of understanding the situation in the second half.
"We spend time talking about beating the game. You have to beat that first, the fouls and officials and constantly talk about field position and understand down and distance," Simpson said. "This team up to this point has listened to that and have played off each other."
No. 24 Tennessee State (3-1, 0-1)
The Tigers dug themselves a big hole early against UT Martin last week as the Skyhawks scored 24 unanswered points to start the game. TSU tried to battle back, but lost the battle of ranked OVC teams 31-16.
"Without question (you can't fall behind like that). It isn't somewhere we haven't been before, so I wasn't nervous," TSU coach Rod Reed said. "I just thought if we could get some things going, we could give ourselves an opportunity. We didn't get the ball in the hand of our playmakers and credit to UT Martin, they took it away."
No. 5 Jacksonville State (2-1)
The Gamecocks started to get junior Kendrick Doss some time under center in the 31-17 win over Liberty this past week. JSU coach John Grass put Doss in during the third series of the game, which was planned beforehand. Doss finished 8-of-10 passing for 64 yards and he rushed for 32 yards and a score on three carries.
Senior quarterback Bryant Horn started and was 9-of-19 passing for 181 yards, a touchdown and an interception to go with 4 yards rushing. Grass said the two quarterbacks will continue to see time going forward.
"Hopefully (Doss) plays the third series no matter what. He deserves a shot and we probably should've played him in the first two games," Grass said. "Him and Bryant complement each other well and I like to develop the number two quarterback. I thought we looked a little rusty for not playing for two weeks and had to get to game speed. Once we settled in, we were okay."
Defensively, Jacksonville State held Liberty to 31 yards rushing. Liberty's offense is developed around the passing game, but taking away the run put the Flames in more passing situations than they would've liked.
"Everyone wants to run the ball. Our defense did a great job of preparing and our guys did a great job," Grass said. "We were able to get pressure with a lot of hurries and we did something well up front. I thought our backfield played well and we are playing at a high level and continue to get better."
Austin Peay (2-2, 1-0)
It didn't take long for the Governors to take control of the game against Murray State as Austin Peay had a 20-0 lead with 8:34 left in the second quarter and went into halftime with the same 20-0 point lead. Austin Peay went on to win 27-7.
"I just thought our kids played hard in the first half. I am excited about what we did defensively," Austin Peay coach Will Healy said. "I'm very proud and that yardage allowed (88 yards) is phenomenal. They do everything we ask and I am proud of how quickly they are maturing in this process."
However, the Governors let up a bit in the second half, but still held on for the 20-point victory.
"We let the foot off the gas. Next time we build a lead like that, we have to keep the foot on the pedal," Healy said. "I think what happens, when you have that culture, you have to make sure the doubt doesn't creep into their minds. As bad as it could've gone, our kids defensively stuck together and the offense stepped up when it needed to and sealed the deal with 6 minutes left. That was good to see."
Eastern Kentucky (1-2, 1-0)
The Colonels forced five turnovers in the 24-21 win over Tennessee Tech and senior safety Kobie Grace forced three turnovers on his own. Grace had seven tackles, an interception, forced a fumble and recovered two fumbles. Grace forced and recovered a fumble during Tech's first possession and it led to three points for EKU. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Grace intercepted a pass at the EKU 19-yard line. The Colonels scored six plays later and it proved to be the winning score.
"He was an instrumental part of that and that was big in the game," EKU coach Mark Elder said. "Him getting that pick was huge. The biggest was starting the game off, punching the ball out and recovering it. He was a big part of winning that game. He's played a lot of ball for us and we certainly expect big things from Kobie."
The Colonels built a 17-0 lead in the third quarter and were up 24-7 in the fourth quarter, but almost let the game slip away as EKU held on for a 24-21 victory.
"We still have to be a more consistent team. I thought they played well in the first half," Elder said. "You look at 8 minutes to go with a 17-point lead, if we can be sound and play like we are capable of, we should be able to walk off and feel good. We have to clean those things up so we are not in that situation. We have to play four quarters."
Murray State (1-3, 0-1)
The Racers' offense took its lumps during a 22-7 loss to Austin Peay on Saturday. Murray State only had 88 yards of total offense, leaving plenty of blame for everyone on that side of the ball.
"It's everything right now. If you can't run, you can't throw. It's everything," Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said. "Whether we have to simplify things or make things more complex, whatever it might be. We have to get something that we are good at instead of throwing a bunch of plays out there and see what sticks. I don't think we've done a good job of that up to this point and that's my fault."
Southeast Missouri State (0-4, 0-1)
The Redhawks rushed for 106 yards against Eastern Illinois in a 19-16 loss on Saturday, but it took them 30 carries. Marquis Terry led SEMO with 73 yards, but it took 20 carries for a 3.4 yards per carry average. The Redhawks averaged 3.5 yards per carry in the loss.
"I think really it was more about what EIU did. They were committed to it schematically and are good enough to get it done," SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz said. "We were still efficient. The bottom line came down to the passing game and we were off there. They were committed in numbers to stopping the run. We just have to do a better job in the passing game."
Tennessee Tech (0-4, 0-1)
For the second time this season, turnovers hurt the Golden Eagles. Tech turned the ball over five times in a 24-21 loss to Eastern Kentucky on Saturday. The Golden Eagles are last in the OVC with 15 turnovers this season - nine interceptions and six fumbles.
Last week, the Golden Eagles had two interceptions and three fumbles.
"We are coaching extremely hard and we are not talking (about the turnovers) much," Tech coach Marcus Satterfield said. "We are superstitious and I don't know if it can get worse. We spent 10 minutes on it this morning, having the defense try and rip at it. We have to hold on, protect the football because we don't, then teams like Jacksonville state will score 30 against us."